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Graeme delighted after most prolific off-spinner list reads: Swann, Laker

Graeme Swann, England. Photo: Nigel French/PA Graeme Swann, England. Photo: Nigel French/PA

Thursday, November 15, 2012
2:40 PM

Graeme Swann could be forgiven his mixed feelings after going past the great Jim Laker as England’s most prolific off-spinner, on a day when India put an early stamp on the Test series.

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Swann’s second wicket of four on day one of the first Test at the Sardar Patel Stadium took him past Laker to a career tally of 194.

But his were the only successes in an otherwise chastening experience for England as the punishing strokeplay of Virender Sehwag (117) and then the more sedate Cheteshwar Pujara (98no) took the hosts to 323 for four at stumps.

Despite two dropped catches and other misjudgements in the field, after Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had shared an opening stand of 134, Swann (four for 85) hauled things back on a lifeless pitch offering just a little turn.

It was Sehwag’s wicket which put him out on his own as an England off-spinner - an achievement he will treasure, having grown up like so many with an interest in cricket hearing names like Laker’s uttered always in reverential terms.

“It is a proud moment,” said the 33-year-old.

“I’m always saying I’m not one for stats. But when people told me I was near to Jim Laker, I was genuinely excited.

“When you’re growing up, famous names from the game, you never even dream of emulating them - let alone going past their record.

“So I’m very honoured to go past him today.”

He was delighted too to then add the scalp of Sachin Tendulkar as his next wicket.

The veteran master batsman walked out to obligatory cheers, and departed to predictable silence.

Asked if there is a special satisfaction to get Tendulkar out, Swann said: “There is.

“Just the noise that erupted in the ground when he walked out to bat ... he hadn’t even left the changing room, and you know who’s coming in.

“It’s always nice to get him, and get him early as well - because he’s the greatest player still playing the game.”

Those were the highlights for Swann and England then, amid plenty of vain ball-chasing and boundaries - courtesy mostly of Sehwag.

“From the first few overs, we realised we were in for the long haul over here,” he said.

“The way ‘Viru’ batted from the off, he took the game away from us in that first couple of hours. So it was important to pull it back.

“That first session was very tough, and we had a guy in exceptional form.

“They undoubtedly won that session. But I think we won the second, and the third was fairly even.”

It could have been worse for the tourists, and at one point looked as if it surely would be.

“Having lost the toss on that pitch, we’d obviously have liked five or six wickets - but we’ll take four,” added Swann.

“I think we all came back very strong. At lunchtime, we sat down and came up with a new gameplan - because I don’t think we bowled quite straight enough in the first session.

“On a pitch that is low and slow, you’ve got to attack the stumps a bit more.

“I think we did that, as the day went on, and that’s why we got more wickets - and pulled the run rate back, especially.”

Swann is the only successful bowler so far and he was happy - after displacing Laker in the record books - to joke of taking a shot at the one place in history the Yorkshireman will is almost certain to never lose.

No-one will ever take 19 of the 20 wickets to fall, as Laker famously did against Australia at Old Trafford 56 years ago.

But reminded he is still theoretically on course to do so here, Swann said: “That’s a very good point. That really is the glass half-full.

“Why not? I’ve taken four, so I’ll go to bed tonight and dream of 20 wickets!”

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