GRAEME SWANN'S press conference last night (above) at the end of day three was, as you might expect, a little out of the ordinary.
The Nottinghamshire spin bowler, 31, spent eight years languishing in exile after his debut in 2000. Because, apparently, the powers-that-be (also known as old farts) felt he was a little too cocky, loud, abrasive.
What a waste of the man who is rapidly emerging as England's finest current cricketer. Over the last three days of the first Test against South Africa at Centurion, he has been our player of the day every day. He spent two days bowling in the searing heat to take 5-110 then, after watching the rest of the so-called batsman, he emerged to thrash an astonishing Test-best 85 to put England back in the game.And then came the chat afterwards. On Twitter last night, these little gems: "I'm going to have another room date with Cookie tonight. If it ain't broke..." (a reference to a jokey twitter over his feelings for one Alastair Cook earlier in the week). That came after: "In the words of George, in Blackadder goes forth as gorgeous georgina...i feel fantastic!"
And of course, he had every right to. Five wickets and 85 runs puts him at a level few of the world's all-rounders can hope to maintain. But he has always fancied himself as both a batter and a bowler. English cricket just tends to stifle those who believe they can do both.
There's a suggestion Swann might just be thebest No9 bat in the world. And on hearing Australia captain Ricky Ponting had batted in that position yesterday against the West Indies and made just 2, Swann gloated last night: "How many did he get? Draw your own conclusions."
And told it was the highest score from an England No9 for 38 years, he snapped: "I was kind of hoping it might be the highest ever. If I'd known, I'd have carried on pushing it round."
There was plenty more. How he was going back to lecture the early-order batters on their technique, how finger-spinning is the toughest job in the world, absolute entertainment. Pity the poor soul who talks after him, in this case the South African spinner Paul Harris, who didn't make a bad fist of it.But Swanny wasn't finished. This morning, by Twitter: "I am wearing my lucky pants again today, despite them being a trifle crusty. Let's hope for wickets this morning."It worked, just two overs in, nightwatchman Harris was caught with his knickers in a twist. Well, not literally.
Jimmy Anderson’s delivery was shaping just wide of his leg stump when the ball caught in his trousers and was dragged back onto the wicket. Bowled for 11, South Africa 20-2.
What was it Swannie said last night: “We’ll get the non-batsman out in the morning and go from there!” And that was with his arch-rival Harris standing at the back of the room, waiting to talk to the media!
South Africa lost their second of the morning, third of the innings when Graeme Onions produced a corker which might have bent a bit and captain Graeme Smith was gone for 12, a rare double failure for the man who ducked out so early in the first innings. South Africa 34-3. Anyone's game.