GRAEME Swann was glad to be back in the thick of the action as England took a stranglehold on day three of the second Investec Test against New Zealand.
The off-spinner missed three Tests against the same opposition earlier this year after undergoing surgery on a troublesome elbow injury and was only required to bowl eight overs in the series opener at Lord’s as the seam attack excelled.
But, when he was called on at Headingley yesterday, the 34-year-old produced a superb spell to help dismiss the tourists for just 174.
He finished with four for 42, starting with two devastating overs that included the scalps of Dean Brownlie, Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson.
After reaching stumps on 116 for one, with a lead of 296, Swann was able to reflect contentedly on a job well done.
“It’s only third time I’ve bowled since the operation. Obviously, with having the operation and with such a big summer ahead, it’s important to get wickets under your belt.
“I was optimistic I’d be able to get back playing and be able to perform but, whether you’ll have the rhythm and the spin in the fingers, you’re never sure.
“So I’m delighted it seems to be coming out nicely. It feels just like it did 18 months ago again and that’s encouraging.”
The follow-on margin was reduced from 200 ahead to 150 due to the day-one washout, meaning England could have enforced it with their 180-run first innings lead.
Instead, they batted themselves and the sight of Nick Compton registering a fourth successive failure in the series, this time managing just seven runs in a stodgy 45-ball stay, was the only real blight on the day.
It was his last chance to impress before the Ashes, but Swann insists Compton retains the confidence of his team-mates. “Compo’s obviously had a fairly low-scoring game. He hasn’t hit the standards he expects of himself, but we know what a magnificent player he is. He played with aplomb in the winter and he has the support of everyone in the dressing room. I bowl at him in the nets so I know how good he is and he’ll be scoring heavily in no time.”
New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor revealed the tourists were expecting to follow-on, but believes that would have been preferable as the top order looked to make up for their earlier efforts.
“We were probably a bit surprised we didn’t bat again,” he said.
“If we had batted again and got a lead of around 150, it might have been difficult for England, but they have dictated this game.
ENGLAND First innings
Overnight 337–7 (J E Root 104, J M Bairstow 64)
M J Prior c Taylor b Southee 39
G P Swann not out 26
S T Finn b Boult 6
J M Anderson c & b Boult 0
Extras (b9 lb7 w5 nb1) 22
Total (all out, 99 overs) 354
Fall: 1-11 2-67 3-67 4-146 5-270 6-279 7-286 8-345 9-354. Bowling: Boult 22 4 57 5; Southee 26 6 76 2; Wagner 23 4 73 1; Bracewell 19 3 83 1; Williamson 9 0 49 1.
NEW ZEALAND First innings
P G Fulton c & b Finn 28
H D Rutherford c Bell b Finn 27
K S Williamson lbw b Swann 13
L R P Taylor b Finn 6
D G Brownlie b Swann 2
M J Guptill b Swann 1
B B McCullum c & b Broad 20
T G Southee lbw b Broad 19
D A J Bracewell c Bell b Swann 1
N Wagner b Anderson 27
T A Boult not out 24
Extras (lb5 w1) 6
Total (all out, 43.4 overs) 174
Fall: 1-55 2-62 3-72 4-79 5-81 6-82 7-119 8-122 9-122. Bowling: Anderson 7.4 2 34 1; Broad 15 2 57 2; Finn 12 3 36 3; Swann 9 1 42 4.
ENGLAND Second innings
A N Cook not out 88
N R D Compton c Rutherford b Williamson 7
I J L Trott not out 11
Extras (b8 lb1 w1) 10
Total (1 wkt, 41 overs) 116
Fall: 1-72. Bowling: Boult 2 1 2 0; Southee 9 3 30 0; Wagner 9 2 31 0; Williamson 15 4 32 1; Bracewell 6 3 12 0.
England lead by 296 runs