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A Gift For Christmas
In an extract from his newly-released
autobiography,Nottinghamshire and England
spinner Graeme Swann recalls the County
Championship success of 2005.
I genuinely believed I had a chance of
playing for England in the Ashes during that
memorable summer of 2005 – or at least
making the squad. I got nowhere near, of
course – although I was twelfth man for the
first couple of days of the Edgbaston Test,
with typically disastrous consequences.
You just couldn’t make this up. As luck
would have it, on my return to sharing a
changing room with Duncan Fletcher after
five years away, I pulled a muscle in my back.
So as England fought their way back into the
series, serenaded by thousands of drunken
Brummies, there was I receiving treatment on
the physio bench. Fletch must have looked at
me and thought: ‘What an imbecile.’ There
were no pleasantries, no breaking of the ice;
once again he didn’t have anything to do with
me. But that’s not unusual because as twelfth
man the last thing you do is hobnob with the
coaching staff.They’re too busy trying to win
the game.
The noise in the ground that week fuelled
my determination to get back into the fold.
When Andrew Flintoff bowled that over at
Ricky Ponting, one of the best ever in Test
cricket, the atmosphere was simply amazing.
But going through the whole summer
of 2005 without coming close to a recall
disheartened me once more, particularly
bearing in mind the quality of the guys
getting picked for one-day tours around
then. I didn’t have a problem when Shaun
Udal was selected, or even Gareth Batty,
but when guys like Jamie Dalrymple and
Alex Loudon were called up I considered
my England chance gone. It almost felt as
if the selectors were mocking me. My mates
certainly were. Every time I went down the
pub they would give me a hard time about
who was getting picked ahead of me.That’s
mates for you.
In contrast, things with Nottinghamshire
could not have gone any better. Everything
Mick Newell promised was delivered.
Having targeted the County Championship
title, in September we secured the club’s
first in 18 years, in the penultimate round,
after dangling Kent a poisoned carrot at
Canterbury. Kent had to win this particular
rain-affected contest to retain their own
hopes of silverware and were therefore
compelled to chase a 420-run target in just
70 overs. Needless to say, our hefty victory
was greeted joyously, in stark contrast to the
incandescent reaction of the great Shane
Warne, captain of Hampshire, our nearest
rivals. According to him, it was the dumbest
thing he had ever seen in his life.
I was happy with my 30-wicket haul
in Division One, although my season’s
statistics became somewhat tarnished
in the final game of the season against
Hampshire in what would have been a title
showdown but for our win over Kent. Our
celebrations were still in full flow when we
arrived in Southampton – let’s just say there
were 11 visiting players nursing the biggest
hangovers in the history of cricket, and this
game certainly did not take place on a level
playing field – and Flem asked them to bat
first on a soaking-wet wicket.
Now, if it had been the game to decide
the title I reckon we would have had them
eight down at lunch, given the favourable
conditions. As it was, Hampshire closed the
first day on 424 for four.
They piled up 714 for five, their highest ever
Championship score, breaking a record that had
stood since 1899.My figures were one for 145.
We lost by an innings, of course, but the
thing I loved about Notts was highlighted in
that week.We had been so professional and
strived so hard all year to win, and rather
than peddle out clichés about the next game
being the most important after doing so, we
savoured the achievement. Mick’s attitude
was that as we had worked so hard all year,
we deserved to enjoy it, so nobody left the
bar on the eve of the game until everyone
had bought a round.We just sat and talked
cricket together. The bond and team spirit
was something to cherish; it was as good as
anything I’d known.
Mick was amazing for me and true to his
word gave me free rein to be myself. That’s
not to say there weren’t teething problems
that first summer. In a Championship game
at Glamorgan in late August – shortly after
I’d knackered up a game against Surrey by
running out Mark Ealham – I went in with a
lead of exactly 100 with four wickets intact
and decided it was time to tee off . However,
having advanced down the pitch to only my
second ball from Robert Croft, I picked out
midwicket beautifully, and as I trudged off,
Mick absolutely fumed.
One of the most fidgety watchers you will
ever come across, Mick on this occasion had
Graeme Swann:
The Breaks Are Off