Swann breaks Australia's stride
Posted in NatWest Series
Two runs came to an end yesterday in the north-east: the Great North Run (admittedly it started yesterday too) and England’s losing run in the NatWest Series.
Kenya’s Martin Lel, a three-time winner of the London Marathon, won over half that distance through Newcastle in 59 minutes, 32 seconds.
A few miles south, at the Riverside, England averted a string of seven one-day international defeats and with it an unwanted place in the record books.
Never before had an international side been whitewashed in a seven-match series. Thanks largely to off-spinner Graeme Swann’s first five-wicket haul in ODIs, no side has.
Swann, introduced midway through Australia’s burgeoning innings, immediately had their premier batsmen - Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke - in trouble.
His fifth delivery deceived Ponting, locating the right-hander’s inside edge and ending a 79-run alliance.
Man-of-the-match Swann bamboozled man-of-the-series Cameron White and James Hopes. Mitchell Johnson managed one typically lusty blow but was caught next ball.
Brett Lee was Swann’s fifth victim, bowled without adding to Australia’s total, sparking a leap in the air from the bowler - no doubt mimicking Lee’s celebration at Lord's a fortnight ago.
If Lee was riled, the paceman was denied the opportunity to bowl at Swann, who was next in when the hosts reached their target with four wickets and 10 overs to spare.
Swann’s one-day best 5-28 represented a welcome addition to the record books. However, it is not was not the defining moment of Swann’s, nor England’s, summer.
That came late on the afternoon of Sunday 23 August when Swann found the inside edge of Mike Hussey’s bat, Alastair Cook clasping the ball safely at short-leg. England had regained the Ashes.
Although the summer of 2009 will ultimately be remembered for the Test series against Australia, the NatWest Series that followed must not be forgotten.
Andrew Strauss’ side competed with their opponents at times but, in contrast to the Ashes, it was was Ricky Ponting’s men who won the crucial moments - to the tune of 6-1.
Lessons must be learned, quickly, with England’s ICC Champions Trophy campaign starting on Friday against Sri Lanka in Johannesburg. Australia have the luxury of an extra day to prepare to face West Indies at the same venue.
Both England and Australia, who cannot meet again until the competition’s knockout stages, travelled to South Africa today after a gruelling summer.
For England it began on May 6, a Wednesday start for the West Indies Test at Lord’s, 136 days prior to yesterday’s climax.
For those Australians who have been involved throughout - even Ponting was afforded a trip home after the Ashes - it began later that month.
An early exit from the ICC World Twenty20 in June earned the tourists an extra week of Ashes ‘preparation’ - in Leicester.
However, a whirlwind Test series quickly gathered momentum, climaxing at the Brit Oval on a memorable, sun-drenched day. Almost a month later, the Riverside was similarly lit up yesterday. On both occasions Swann shone.