Now we must finish the job: Swann says England can win series by being clinical
23:29 GMT, 11 December 2012
England need only think back to the last Ashes to remind themselves of their desire to finish off a wounded opponent and return home for Christmas with a job gloriously done.
It was in Melbourne two years ago that, joyously, they retained the Ashes by taking a 2-1 lead with a truly momentous performance against Australia.
England could have been forgiven for considering their mission to be accomplished but they followed it up with an even greater victory in Sydney to ensure the series, as well as the fabled urn, was emphatically grasped.
They find themselves now in an identical
situation, with two of their greatest away Test victories in memory
being followed here in the middle of India by a final Test in which
their ruthless instincts will be tested to the full.
Final act: England celebrate a memorable victory at the SCG to seal the Ashes series – and Graeme Swann has urged a repeat performance in India
Most in England would have taken a 2-2 draw at the start of this series, and particularly after India’s heavy victory in Ahmedabad, but that would represent failure now for an England team who sense redemption after a miserable year.
Even Graeme Swann was more serious than usual yesterday after England had practised at the well-appointed VCA Stadium for the first time. Kolkata has been consigned to history. Now it is time, in tomorrow’s fourth Test, to ram home England’s advantage.
‘It would have been very easy to just switch off in Sydney after we had retained the Ashes but we managed to pull out our best game of the tour,’ said Swann.
‘It’s a lot more satisfying as a team to finish the job off. We came here to win the series like we did then and that’s what we want to do now.’
The message then still applies. ‘From what I remember, Andrew Strauss sat us down and stressed that all our hard work would be wasted if we had lost in Sydney. Yes, we’d have retained the Ashes but we would have felt as if we’d let ourselves down. It worked then and it’s a good attitude to take in now.’
Tighten the screw: Swann has urged England to claim victory in India for the first time in 27 years (FILE IMAGE)
Nagpur holds good memories for England. It was in the ‘cleanest and greenest’ city in India, but not at this ground, that Alastair Cook scored a century on Test debut six years ago and Monty Panesar and, less memorably, Ian Blackwell, also made their England bows.
Last year England played at what must rank among the nicest stadiums in this country in the World Cup and survived a few scares and a Ryan ten Doeschate century before they defeated Holland.
There have been only three Tests at the VCA Stadium, 10 miles outside Nagpur, and all have provided positive results, with the pitch yesterday looking far from the dusty, used, dry turner that many expected. Pitch reading can be a hazardous business, especially two days out from a Test, but this one looked pretty good.
The most pleasing aspect of England’s transformation is that they have triumphed both on a raging turner in Mumbai and a flat surface in Kolkata and, as Swann revealed, the great comeback has been as much to do with attitudes as conquering playing surfaces.
‘It would have been very easy to get into a rut after Ahmedabad, of losing games and thinking about going home rather than winning the next one,’ said Swann. ‘A lot of focus and energy went into ensuring that this tour wasn’t going to be like that.
Ton machine: England will look to Alastair Cook to lead from the front once again in Nagpur (FILE IMAGE)
‘It was made very clear after the first Test, whether it came from management or senior players, that Mumbai was a chance to level the series and anybody who didn’t see it that way wasn’t welcome in the dressing room.
‘We probably approached the tour a bit different this time. We have tried to embrace India and believed that we could win this series. I’m not sure that’s always been the case here.
‘I’ve only been on one other Indian tour but there certainly seemed more belief from the outset on this one.’
England are set to be unchanged, but it was interesting to see Andy Flower call Cook over to watch Jonny Bairstow in the nets yesterday. It would be harsh on Samit Patel if he is left out now, but his bowling is largely redundant in a team including both Swann and Panesar and he has a top score in this series of 33.
For India the repercussions rumble on. Zaheer Khan will not feature for the first time when fit for five years and Ashok Dinda looks set to replace him even though they have the option of a third spinner in Piyush Chawla, who has come into the squad for Harbhajan Singh. Ravindra Jadeja, who has just scored the third triple hundred of his career, replaces Yuvraj Singh.
One last hurrah Sachin Tendulkar could call an end to his Test career after 15,643 runs – and counting (FILE IMAGE)
But it is at the top where most of India’s attention is focused. This could really be the last Test for one of the greatest players the game has known in Sachin Tendulkar, while MS Dhoni is playing for his Test captaincy.
It is also difficult to see Duncan Fletcher taking up the year’s option on his coaching contract when it is up for renewal in April.
These are testing times for the richest, most powerful country in cricket but England have the chance to further trouble them by winning a series here for the first time in 27 years and, in the process, ensure that India’s ‘revenge’ series turns to dust. Expect Cook and his team to do just that.