Swann defends England decisions
Graeme Swann accepts England “messed up” their decision review tactics but insists they did not make any other errors as South Africa took the upper hand on day one of the first Test.
The off-spinner would not have expected to bowl 24 overs unchanged in the hottest part of the day at Centurion after Andrew Strauss had originally chosen to bowl first on a green pitch.
But that is what happened as Jacques Kallis compiled his second successive Test century - the previous one in South Africa’s last Test nine months ago - and his sixth against England as the hosts reached 262 for four at stumps.
England’s three-man pace attack - they picked an extra batsman - also began to look tired as Kallis (112 not out) and JP Duminy shared an unbroken century stand.
But Swann described England as “happy” with a tough day’s work, apart from their misuse of both available queries on the decision review system.
They failed to have an lbw decision against Kallis overturned, or AB de Villiers given out caught behind - although the latter was out immediately afterwards anyway.
“We keep messing it up, we’ve got to get better at it,” he said after England had repeated the DRS errors they made the first time they played under the system in the Caribbean last winter.
“We had a quick conflab over the lbw and we all thought it had to be out but it wasn’t.”
The system does also not use ‘Hotspot’ and ‘Snickometer’ technology for this series.
“We said: ‘We’re not going to call for caught behinds unless we’re certain’,” Swann explained.
Swann disputed suggestions England made another mistake in choosing to bowl first, however.
“Having seen the wicket yesterday and this morning, we were well within our rights and justified to bowl first - and certainly the stats on this ground seemed to back up the fact that bowling first can be very lucrative here,” he said.
“Had a couple of the balls that kept low early on - especially from Graham Onions - cannoned into the pads or flicked the bail, we could be sitting here in a very different situation. We could have had them seven or eight down, or even bowled them out.
“As that last session went on, perhaps we lost a bit of the initiative. But, at the end of play, I think we’re fairly happy that they haven’t really got away from us.
“I think we’ve stuck to our guns on a very good pitch. We didn’t bowl badly at any point and the fact we haven’t gone at more than three an over is a positive.”
Kallis’ innings was a typically determined and skilful performance, from someone playing his first match in more than a month because of a cracked rib.
None of that was lost on his team-mate Ashwell Prince.
“Everyone can see how calm he is and it rubs off on everyone else in the team,” said Prince.
“Everyone was wondering whether he’d be fit and the management wanted to give him as much time as possible, understanding what he means to the team.”
Prince also benefited from the review system. Having been given out lbw to Graham Onions, he then had the decision overturned.
And it may make him think differently about the system in future.
“I’ve benefited today but yesterday, when we discussed it in the team meeting, I was the only player who said he’d prefer not to have it,” the opener admitted.
Prince reported that, although he could understand England’s decision to bowl, South Africa would have chosen to bat had they won the toss.
“Obviously, the pitch had been under cover for a few days in the build-up and we knew there would be a bit of moisture and a bit more of a green tinge than what is usual,” he said.
“But quite a few of the guys play here and still thought it was good enough to bat first. I think had we won the toss we would have batted anyway.
“We’ve played here a lot more and know the conditions a bit better.”