Swann in awe of Mendis

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Graeme Smith & Kumar Sangakkara

Graeme Smith is bowled by Ajantha Mendis in yesterday's clash between South Africa and Sri Lanka, with Graeme Swann lauding the spinner as a good addition to the game

Graeme Swann believes he is finally a master of his craft at 30 but can only dream of adding the unorthodox tricks of Sri Lanka’s Ajantha Mendis.

Off-spinner Swann heads into England’s opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy on Friday on the back of 5-28, England’s best one-day figures against Australia, but will be in direct competition to mystery man Mendis, who has wrecked the reputations of the best batsmen on the planet.

South Africa were the latest team to falter at the first hurdle when facing Mendis, extending the trend of his success against new opposition.

England are yet to face him in a match situation but were bamboozled in practice sessions during their last tour of Sri Lanka when they were preparing to come up against star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

“We actually faced him in the nets a couple of years ago when he wasn’t in the team,” recalled Swann.

“When we watched him bowl we thought ‘how are we going to do against Murali when we can’t even play this clubbie?’

“He was getting us all out. It was inevitable that he would end up playing for Sri Lanka. Anyone that brings a new dimension to the game is exciting. Let’s face it, one-day cricket needs some excitement to keep it going, so guys doing that is good for the game.”

Although Mendis is not a big spinner of the ball, his ability to rush batsmen off the pitch and move it both ways provides dangerous variations.

“The great thing about bowling spin is that you’re rubbish when you’re 20, you’re okay when you’re 25 and you start being decent when you’re 30,” he said.

“You go through all the lows as you are growing up - being hit for six every day and thinking you’ll not get another wicket - so it makes it quite easy to deal with when you bowl badly in later life.

“You know you have been there a lot before. I am nowhere near the complete article but I am comfortable with my game now.

“Taking a five-for in Durham in September was probably the last thing on my mind. I was looking at the telly hoping it would rain so we wouldn’t lose 7-0. As it was it turned square, so it was very enjoyable to bowl them out.”

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