Shamefully, I’ve not kept a sufficiently close eye on the cricket today. It’s early May and it doesn’t feel right for there to be a test match on so soon. Anyway, reader TS writes "Do you realize that England have just given Graeme Swann the new ball? In a test match at Lords, no less! In May! If this doesn’t merit an "O tempora O mores" post, I’m not sure what does."
Patrick Kidd and the chaps at Cricinfo seem equally perplexed. Actually, I quite like the move and not just because giving Swann a couple of overs with the new ball is refreshingly unorthodox. There’s method behind the idea too, however. Yes, it’s May and yes conditions are good for seam and swing, but the key to the decision, I would hazard, is Chris Gayle. That is, Gayle bats in test matches in much the same way as normal cricketers approach a Twenty20 knockabout. Opening with a spinner is not unheard of in limited overs cricket and since Gale loves the ball to come on to the bat, trying to disrupt his timing by confronting him with a slow bowler at the start of his innnings is not a crazy notion. Plus, there was always a chance that Swann might get some extra bounce with the hard ball… Equally, the risk of giving Swann a couple of overs with the new cherry was massively outweighed by the potential reward of a wicket.
So, yes, this was a good move by Strauss and one that shows a commendable willingness to think. That it didn’t work is not, in this instance, the point.
UPDATE: The other point to be made is that Smith seems to be less than comfortable against Swann. Also, all three of the batsmen Swann dismissed today are left-handed. He seems, as an off-spinner should, to be very effective against southpaws. Which is useful considering that three of Australia’s top four are lefties.