Swann delights in perfect start
Graeme Swann paid tribute to England’s excellent performance in the field after they romped to a 10-wicket victory over West Indies in his first match as Twenty20 captain.
In the first of two evening fixtures at the Kia Oval, England, led by Swann in the absence of the injured Stuart Broad, exhibited the form of Twenty20 world champions against an inexperienced touring outfit missing several star names.
All-rounder Ravi Bopara led the way with the ball, returning figures of 4-10 as the hosts were restricted to 125 all out, before Alex Hales and Craig Kieswetter prospered in an attractive century stand.
England’s win comes almost three years after they suffered a 10-wicket defeat at the hands of West Indies in the inaugural Stanford Super Series.
Asked to compare the two performances, Swann replied: “When we played that Stanford game we looked an absolute rabble but here we managed to restrict the Windies to 125 on possibly the best surface in the country.
“We’re taking these games very seriously. We want to ascertain our very best Twenty20 XI and tonight has gone a long way towards cementing one or two players into that squad, if not the final XI.”
A jovial Swann was happy to take the plaudits for his decision to entrust Bopara with a full allocation of overs.
“It takes a world-class death bowler to get me out three times in every net. I’m just glad I got the chance to be captain to show everyone how good he is,” Swann smiled.
“I thought it might be a game where the seamers really came into their own, but it soon became apparent that the more pace on the ball the easier it was to hit.
“A lot of these West Indian guys don’t exactly struggle against the quicks. It’s not often in an international that a (Tim) Bresnan or a (Steven) Finn won’t bowl their full quota, but tonight’s conditions and the pitch dictated that and it’s a credit to the way that Samit (Patel, who picked up 2-23 from four overs) and Ravi bowled. They made batting very tricky.”
Swann admitted he would be delighted to lead England again in future series should the opportunity be presented to him.
“Hopefully I’ll do a good job on Sunday and my name will still be in the hat to keep an interim position. I enjoyed every moment of today,” he added.
Bopara modestly played down his own efforts, which saw him register the best bowling analysis by an England player in Twenty20 cricket.
Paul Collingwood and Jade Dernbach had shared the record with figures of 4-22 and Bopara said: “I was a bit embarrassed by the record because we’ve got such good bowlers like Jade and Bressie and Finny and all the guys in the past. For me to have those figures is a little embarrassing.
“I’m just glad I got a chance to bowl,” he continued. “I think medium-pacers in Twenty20 cricket in the middle overs are very important.
“Like spinners, you have to put pace on the ball, try to hit the ball and on big fields like this medium-pacers can be very handy.”
Following his success in the recent 50-over matches against India, Bopara appears to be establishing himself as a key member of England’s squad. However, the 26-year-old is determined not to get carried away.
“Last month has been very good for me. I only got 40 in the Test here but that freed me up and I played with quite a free spirit in the one-dayers,” he explained.
“I said to myself ‘back yourself and hit the ball’, which I’ve tried to do for Essex for a number of years. I’m glad it’s come off and long may it continue.
“You can never bank on being around; you have to keep performing. I just want to take one step at a time and not get too far ahead of myself. When you get above your station that’s when you fall quite hard.”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy rued his side’s inability to build on an opening partnership of 51 inside six overs from openers Dwayne Smith and Johnson Charles.
“We had a great start but the moment we let them go we didn't bounce back,” he said.
“You have to capitalise; the batsmen coming in have to be more responsible. We started really good but if we'd ended with something like 150-plus then we'd have felt much better than we did and we'd have bowled more to our plans.”
Sammy is confident his side can put in an improved showing on Sunday, but acknowledged the challenge posed by an England side high on confidence.
“They are number one and they play like number one,” he continued.
“All the guys,even on debuts, come in fairly experienced from county cricket. It shows in their game - they are quite confident and that's a page we can take from their book.
“At the moment whatever they do and whoever comes in just tends to fit in the team right away.
“We have our goals and we want to win the cricket match but this was about seeing who could compete at this level.”