Swann soaring after Test best
Graeme Swann believes England are “back in the game” after his typically swashbuckling innings swung the momentum back in the tourists’ favour at Centurion.
Swann’s occasionally outrageous strokeplay helped England from 242 for eight to 356 in reply to South Africa’s 418.
His Test-best 85 on the third evening was the highest score by an England number nine since Peter Lever 38 years ago.
In a stand of 106 with good friend James Anderson, he resuscitated his side’s hopes and reduced the first-innings deficit to only 62.
Anderson then bowled Ashwell Prince to reduce South Africa to nine for one at the close.
“It was certainly a game that was drifting horrendously out of our favour,” Swann admitted. “Now if we haven’t quite got to a point of equality we’re pretty much back in the game.”
Swann’s boundary-laden knock, a day after claiming 5-110, made a mockery of the earlier struggles of England’s top order on an increasingly uneven surface.
“I haven’t had much chance to speak to them yet. But I’ll be going back to give them a lecture in about 20 minutes,” he joked.
Swann put today’s success into context, recalling: “I’ve had a few heady moments over the last 12 months. I don’t think winning the Ashes is ever going to be replaced.
“But to go out there with a good mate of mine and put on a hundred and wrestle the initiative back our way is quite nice.”
England’s ninth-wicket pair soon knew they had their hosts rattled when Anderson struck his first Test six, off Paul Harris.
“It was a good crack - especially when Jimmy smashed that six over deep-midwicket,” said Swann.
“He was telling me shots I wasn’t allowed to play - which I obviously did the next ball - and vice-versa.
“It’s just great fun once you get going and I’m happy that I’ve got a couple of switch-hits now, so I can show Kev (Pietersen) how to hit it along the ground.”
Swann also believes the partnership struck an important psychological blow for the tourists.
“When Jimmy got cramp in his arm batting, we saw Graeme Smith call a team meeting,” he said. “He was fairly animated, so that obviously shows you’re doing something right.
“You can tell when you’re winding people up. The very fact that we’re batting nine and 10 and put on a hundred, I know if I’d been fielding I’d have been calling us every name under the sun.”
South Africa slow left-armer Harris, who took five wickets, was one of those who suffered at Swann’s hands - but he knows there is still much to play for.
“Swanny took the game away from us. But a 70-run lead is a good one - probably worth 100-120,” he said.
“If we can bat well tomorrow I wouldn’t want to face 80 overs on that. We’ll see what it’s like tomorrow, but it will be hard to bat last on.”