Swann soars on encouraging day
Graeme Swann picked up six wickets on the final afternoon against a South Africa Invitational XI to lay down a marker ahead of next week’s first Test at Centurion.
Swann ran through the hosts’ top and middle order to restrict them to 167 for seven in reply to England’s 329 for eight declared, as the weather-affected match was inevitably drawn.
The off-spinner claimed 6-55 while Durham pace duo Graham Onions and Mark Davies - the latter experiencing his first England action - also impressed to finish with tidy figures.
The tourists earlier gained valuable batting practice, notably Alastair Cook’s 81, a stand of 83 between Ian Bell and Matt Prior, plus a sprightly unbeaten 39 from Swann.
With the ball, Onions was first to strike after England had given themselves just over an hour in the field before tea.
Opener Andrea Agathagelou went lbw for five, aiming across the line once too often to a swinging delivery.
Divan van Wyk appeared increasingly comfortable, in company with number three Sammy-Joe Avontuur, until he too fell lbw for 27 - playing across Swann’s second delivery.
Swann doubled up soon after tea when Temba Bavuma propped a catch to short-leg, and added a third wicket by collecting a return catch from Piet van Niekerk’s mishit.
Avontuur, however, was making England work a little. He reached a 65-ball fifty with his eighth four, a cover-drive off the returning Onions, but went into his shell as England used the final hour to give Swann and Stuart Broad more practice.
The bonus came for Swann with three wickets in four balls, Avontuur’s the first when he charged down the pitch and was stumped for 68.
The next two batsmen, David Wiese and Mangaliso Mosehle, were guilty of recklessness before they had scored.
England had begun the day by losing two wickets in the first hour once groundstaff had performed wonders to get play under way on time, after heavy rain which halved yesterday’s scheduled action.
The tourists resumed on 142 for three but, with overnight pair Paul Collingwood and Cook soon gone, Bell and Prior took their chances for time at the crease before the start of the four-Test series next Wednesday.
Collingwood went in the first full over of the day when he chipped a straightforward catch to short-midwicket on 33 off Siya Ntshona.
His dismissal was entirely typical of a slow pitch which has spent so much of the past week under cover - and so too was Cook’s half an hour later.
The opener failed to stay on top of a push drive and was well caught at mid-on by tumbling home captain Wendell Bossinger to give Charl Pietersen his third wicket.
Bell and Prior quickly achieved fluency, taking advantage of vulnerable back-up bowling, as did Swann after the sixth-wicket pair had retired out at lunch on 48 and 44 respectively.
Meanwhile, indications from the South Africa camp are that injured all-rounder Jacques Kallis may yet be fit to bowl in the first Test.
Kallis has spent time in an oxygen chamber to aid his recovery from a broken rib and, although he is still rated only 50-50 to bowl as well as bat at Centurion, South Africa are confident he will be able to do both from the second Test onwards.