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Sam Collins: Atherton reacts strongly to Strauss surprise

May 8th, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, Test cricket, West Indies in England

Andrew Strauss’s decision to entrust the new ball to Graham Swann in the West Indies’ first innings yesterday divided opinion among the watching public, but the majority of the press box seemed to agree with Ian Botham’s bafflement on the box – the England captain was being too smart for his own good.

Mike Atherton in particular laid into Strauss, describing the ploy as “crass, smart-arse, look-at-me captaincy”.

Below is how the rest of the media reviewed Strauss’s tactic.

Mike Atherton in The Times

Strauss will point to Swann’s success and his continued dominance over Smith, whom he dismissed three times in the winter, as justification for giving the off spinner the new ball in West Indies’ first innings. Anderson may have still been smarting from a vicious blow to the head from Edwards, but he would have been hurting more as he watched Swann take the cherry in plum conditions.
This was crass, smart-arse, look-at-me captaincy when what was required was simple adherence to the basics. England’s seamers had pined all winter for the kind of conditions that presented themselves yesterday. They did not waste them.

Mike Selvey in The Guardian
But here is the quirk: for when, after the initial surprise of Broad rather than James Anderson taking the opening over, Chris Gayle and Devon Smith faced up to the second over of the innings, they found not Anderson (designated leader of the pack now) nor either of the debutant seamers, but Graeme Swann with his off-breaks. It invoked memories of Kiwi tactics in the 1992 World Cup, or something familiar that Gayle might have encountered in the Indian Premier League. If it was playing on Gayle’s ego (a “mind the windows, Tino” moment ), then he failed diligently to take the bait but Swann got one to turn nonetheless before being brought off after two overs. It might, of course, have been Strauss being a smart-arse.

Derek Pringle in The Daily Telegraph
Swann is one of those who defy expectations in everything they do. A batsman who previously looked flaky against pace, he creamed the 90mph Edwards all round Lord’s before hooking Baker for six to bring up his fifty.
With a captain to indulge him, rather than suppress him as Duncan Fletcher did, he even got to open the bowling, a decision that looked too clever by half despite stats that say the left-handed opener Smith is vulnerable to spin.
Quite what James Anderson, already grouchy after being sconned by an Edwards thunderbolt when he batted, thought about being overlooked is probably not printable, though the pace bowler eventually made his point by removing Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan in the second innings.

Jonathan Agnew on the
Strauss showed great ingenuity in giving Swann the new ball - almost unheard of these days - because of the hold England’s spinners held over Smith in the Caribbean.

Richard Williams in The Guardian
The decision to open the innings with Broad’s pace at the Nursery end and Swann’s off-spin at the Pavilion end provoked some scratching of heads, but a sensible degree of adventurous originality is a welcome sight in an England cricket team and when Swann’s first three overs yielded no reward against Gayle and Smith, the captain was flexible and firm enough not to let things drift but to introduce Jimmy Anderson.

Andrew Miller on
The idea of entrusting the new ball to a spinner was, according to Onions, a tactic planned far in advance, although in reality, the ebullience of Swann’s earlier batting, coupled with his natural bravado, probably meant he walked straight up to his captain and swiped the cherry before anyone could intervene. With Ravi Bopara showing the way on Wednesday, cockiness has been an unexpectedly welcome trait in this new-look England dressing-room. It certainly beats the jaded complacency of old.

Sam Collins is website editor of

Posted in England, Test cricket, West Indies in England |

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