Will Australians hear the Swann-song?

Last Updated: Nov 16, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Biswajit Jha

The biggest question doing rounds in world cricket nowadays is: Can England recreate the magic of 1986-87 by defeating the once-mighty Australians on their own soil? With a waning Australian squad to face, many believe this England team can change trends of battles for the future Ashes, which have been mostly dominated by the Australians for almost two decades.

There is no denying the fact that Australia is no more a cricketing power house. And this allowed India and England establish their positions as two best Test teams in the world. For the last two years both the teams have done exceedingly well, winning some hard-fought battles.

If the established batters have done the job for India, it’s a spinner from England who has risen above all odds to inject much-needed character into the once-feeble England cricket team with his performance and attitude.

Written off once for his casual attitude, especially off the field, after making his debut for England way back in 1999, Graeme Swann’s rise as a top class spinner of the world is nothing but a fairy-tale. Ranked No. 2 bowler in ICC Test rankings, Swann came into prominence in 2008 West Indies tour where he snapped up 19 wickets in just three Tests.

Though he started off not so promisingly, the 2009 home Ashes decider at Oval marks the emergence of a champion spinner when he claimed 8 wickets in that crucial match to help England register a superb Ashes win after 2005.

He also helped England to a memorable innings win in the second Test against the Proteas in Durban in December 2009. Swann claimed an impressive nine wickets in the tie, including 5 for 54 in the second innings, which took him to 54 wickets in 2009, the only England spinner managing more than 50 in a year.

He then continued to tumble the batsmen of Pakistan and Bangladesh who are considered to be good players of spin bowling.

The last 12 months have also been exceptional for the off-spinner whose ability to spin the cricket ball a long way along with his razor-sharp accuracy has made him a force to reckon with. The colourful spinner has been the most successful bowler in world cricket with 65 wickets at the average of 24, including seven five-fors in an innings and one match haul of 10.

Swann has this unique ability to strike early. Out of those 124 Test wickets, 32 came off his very first over.

History is against Swann though. Australia`s hard, dry pitches have never been conducive for off-spinners. Nathan Hauritz has the best performance among them. His 38 wickets in nine Tests at 29.66 makes him the most successful offie in Australia since Bruce Yardley. John Emburey was England`s last successful off-spinner in Australia with 35 wickets in 10 Tests.

But it’s Swann on whose broad shoulders the success of the English team depends. The Australian batsmen’s ability to handle Swann will decide the future of the series. Because nobody knows how the English seam attack, comprising James Anderson, Stuart Broad and the inexperienced Steve Finn and Chris Tremlet, would perform in Australia without the swing in the air.

England have suffered enough at the hands of an Australian spinner called Shane Warne. Time has finally come for England to give the Aussies a dose of their own medicine!