Swann aims to clear Australia hurdle
Graeme Swann believes England can challenge the record books once more and eliminate Australia en route to ICC Champions Trophy glory.
Few gave England a prayer in this eight-team tournament when they arrived in South Africa on the back of a 6-1 NatWest Series defeat to Australia.
However, with little weight of expectation - England have never won a global tournament - Andrew Strauss’ team eased into the semi-finals and now face their Ashes rivals for the 15th time in under three months.
And England have shown an ability to win when it is unexpected, with their first Test win over Australia at Lord’s since 1934 a case in point.
“History was against us at Lord’s this year when we hadn’t won for 75 years but we won there and maybe this is a year when everything changes,” declared Swann.
“Coming off the back of six defeats you are thinking ‘this Champions Trophy is three days out there and then we’ll get back home and have a bit of a break’.
“But as soon as we got out here there seemed to be - in training, in games - a lift for everyone. There is a good spirit and we have played some exciting cricket.
“Straight away everyone is thinking ‘hang on, we have just beaten Sri Lanka and beaten South Africa, they’re the tournament favourites, why not go on and win the whole thing?’
“The way we played in those first two games we could beat anyone. Obviously in an Australia game there is a little more on it because it is Australia.”
In boy’s own style, Swann would have preferred to meet Ricky Ponting and Co in the final but their tense victory over Pakistan at Centurion this afternoon set up Friday’s semi-final clash at the same venue.
England will have confidence at that venue following the 22-run win over the host nation, while Swann also has success against Australia fresh in the memory, his five-wicket haul setting up the win at the Riverside which averted a campaign whitewash 10 days ago.
“You are only as good as your last game and we trounced them at Chester-le-Street. I think we’ve got a hold on them if anything!” joked Swann.
Joking aside, England will hope they are considerably better than their last game, after they were dismissed for just 146 in bowler-friendly conditions by New Zealand at the Wanderers yesterday.
“We knew the toss was crucial,” said Swann, of the four-wicket loss. “We are certainly making no excuses about that because it helped us in no small part against Sri Lanka.
“We went out trying to be aggressive again, which is good to see, and it definitely went against us.
“Others will probably disagree but I was more than happy getting bowled out for 140 trying to play a few shots and make things happen rather than limp along to 170 and probably still lose the game.
“I will probably get shot down for that but I would much rather be part of a team that’s trying to be aggressive and trying to win the game.
“Last night’s game, if it had been played three weeks ago, we would have lost by 10 wickets because when they were 100 for none we could have easily laid down and died.
“But it showed the spirit in the camp that Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad carried on running in. The bit of chin music that Broady played for a while was heartening to the soul.”
England should also be boosted by the return of wicketkeeper Matt Prior to training tomorrow following a virus.
Eoin Morgan turned in two competent displays as a fill-in behind the stumps, claiming three catches against the Black Caps, but handing over the gloves for the business end of the competition cannot come a moment too soon for the Irishman.
“He was saying last night he never wants to do the job again,” revealed Swann. “His hands are absolutely killing, his body is hurting in places he never knew existed. He reckons keeping is the hardest job in cricket.”
Meanwhile, all-rounder Broad will be assessed further tomorrow after complaining of tightness in his left buttock after claiming four New Zealand wickets.
The 23-year-old was due to go for a scan on the problem area today but that was postponed after the discomfort eased overnight.