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Swann spinning England towards victory

Published 18/02/2009

Graeme Swann's maiden five-wicket international haul kept England on course for a series-levelling victory in the third Test against West Indies.

Off-spinner Swann provided a perfect blend of control and aggression at the Antigua Recreation Ground as he fully justified his inclusion ahead of rival Monty Panesar.

The 29-year-old, who only made his Test debut in India in December, finished with figures of 24-7-57-5.

Twice he picked up crucial wickets when England flagged in the heat and completed his quintet with the second new ball as West Indies' tail was snapped.

When giant left-hander Sulieman Benn was trapped plumb in front by the second ball of a new spell, Swann bee-lined excitedly to mid-off to hug James Anderson before being swamped by the rest of his team-mates.

Moments later Andrew Flintoff wrapped up the innings - and a mammoth 281-run lead - as Jerome Taylor skied an attempted pull.

Swann led the team off to huge cheers from the thousands of travelling supporters gathered here in Antigua.

With more than two days in the contest remaining, England opted not to enforce the follow-on, in anticipation that the surface on which they posted 566 for nine declared would be at its trickiest on the fifth day.

Captain Andrew Strauss departed before the close on the third day, which arrived with England 31 for one. England were treading water ahead of the second new ball when Swann struck twice in as many balls.

Swann was gifted the prize wicket of Ramnaresh Sarwan and followed up by sending back Denesh Ramdin in fortuitous manner as England continued to exorcise the ghosts of Sabina Park.

Sarwan threw away the chance of back-to-back hundreds when he dragged a delivery straight to short mid-wicket, and Ramdin inexplicably punched a full toss straight back to Swann.

Taylor saw out the hat-trick delivery but having been 251 for five, West Indies were suddenly under pressure for the first time in the series and they folded to the second new ball.

With both Flintoff, who awoke with stiffness in his hip, and Steve Harmison, unwell throughout the innings, off colour it was a case of chipping away at the other end to Swann.

Belfast Telegraph

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