England counts on Swann alone

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Old 23-Mar-2011
England counts on Swann alone

England have a second life in this World Cup and the main reason why they are not sitting at home watching the rest of the tournament on television is Graeme Swann.

For so long Swann has been the X-factor bowler in Test cricket, but now he has brought it to one-day cricket and is having the same impact as Andrew Flintoff in 2004-2005.

During that period you felt if you threw Fred the ball, something would happen. The same is true of Swann and that is why a struggling team is still alive at this World Cup.

Not only is he a good bowler but he has energy in his action, puts energy on the ball and there is energy in his attitude which just rubs off on everyone else. You can tell he still believes they can win the World Cup and the other players follow him.

His dismissal of Kieron Pollard last Friday was a key moment. If Pollard had batted another 10 minutes, the game would have been over and even Swann, the master of putting a positive spin on anything, admitted they had one foot on the flight home. But he used his skill and craft to keep the game alive with some clever bowling.

Swann has an incredible change of pace and he used it to sucker Pollard. He tempted Pollard with a nice little looper just outside off stump. Pollard went across and hit him for six. You could then see Pollard was moving his feet across to the off stump. So Swann fired the ball in straight. There was no distinct change of the action, just a flick of the fingers to send it straight with a low trajectory and Pollard was bamboozled and out lbw.

Inconsistent show

The team were down and out. When you are struggling you look to your leading man to deliver and Swann did just that.

But England know they will not win the World Cup through one man. You don't win three games of cricket out here by being inconsistent. Batting, fielding and bowling will have to be at a minimum of 80 per cent for them to have a chance. At the start of the group stage you would have accepted a quarter-final but hoped to play Pakistan or New Zealand. Sri Lanka in Colombo is probably the toughest challenge of them all.

England will look back and think that if they had beaten Ireland and Bangladesh they would have finished top and played New Zealand. Through fatigue and guessing at their best formation they now face Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa Stadium.

Crowd pressure

I have not yet met anyone who thinks England will win on Saturday but I know the Sri Lankan players are not comfortable playing at the Premadasa because they feel the crowd can turn on them if things start to go badly.

That is something England can use to their advantage. It may come down to how they play Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan.

If you keep those two quiet then the other bowlers are nothing to fear and can go for runs, but if you allow Muralitharan to do what he did against New Zealand, when he took four wickets, then it is all over.

England know if they win they will play the semi-final in Colombo, which is a massive advantage. They will be familiar with the bounce and pace of the pitch they will face in the semi-final rather than having to attune from Indian conditions. So, if they win on Saturday, anything could happen.

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