England bowler Graeme Swann 'very proud' to pass Jim Laker's record

Cricket Stumps

There was something for Graeme Swann to smile about after toiling in the heat and dust of the first day of the series, but not much for the rest of his team-mates.

Swann, the solitary English bowler to take a wicket as India amassed 323 for four, went past the tally of Test victims captured by Jim Laker, often regarded as England's greatest off-spinner, when he dismissed Virender Sehwag for 117.

Laker took 193 wickets, 19 of them in the Old Trafford Test of 1956 against Australia. It has taken Swann just one match more than Laker's 46 Tests to surpass that figure and he did not try to disguise his delight, despite England's predicament in Ahmedabad.

"It was a very proud moment," said Swann. "I always say I'm not a stats man but I was genuinely excited when I was told I was close to Laker. So I'm very honoured to have gone past him."

Theoretically it was still possible after the first day's play for Swann to equal or improve on Laker's 19. "If the glass really is half full I could dream of getting all 20."

More realistically Swann acknowledged that England had their backs to the wall, having lost an important toss, which enabled Sehwag to torment a toothless pace attack.

"After the first few overs we realised we were in for the long haul. It was clearly not going to swing but we didn't expect the pitch to be so low and slow. Viru [Sehwag] took the game away from us."

"That first session was tough but we came back strong and bowled well as a unit," added Swann in the compulsory pursuit of another positive after a gruelling day. "Five or six wickets and 60 fewer runs would have been an excellent day."

Swann, who took four for 85 from 32 overs, was the only bowler to test the Indian batsmen on a dry surface that is bound to deteriorate. Last week he had flown back to Nottingham because of his daughter's illness but fortunately for Alastair Cook, who endured a frustrating first day as the official Test captain (four chances were missed in the field), Swann was unaffected by his globetrotting.

One of those blemishes was a chance to Jonathan Trott at slip off Swann's bowling. For a moment Trott, who juggled haplessly with the ball, seemed to claim a catch to dismiss Virat Kohli. TV replays soon demonstrated that the ball touched the turf.

Swann was in a forgiving mood about the aberrations. "We work incredibly hard on our fielding. We need to be sharper for the rest of the series. It is not for the lack of trying."

Swann also induced Sachin Tendulkar to play one of the ugliest shots of his career. India's champion, now in his 40th year, holed out to deep mid-wicket for 13. Earlier Swann had dismissed Gautam Gambhir with a quicker delivery. Later he bowled Kohli through the gate in classical style.

However, to keep morale up, Swann insisted that the pitch was still blameless. "Very few have turned. It is very flat for the seamers and it is still good for batting." Which is just as well since England will have to do a lot of batting to save this game.

Sehwag confirmed the sluggishness of the pitch and perversely extolled the virtues of discretion on such a surface. "We watched videos [of batsmen on pitches such as Ahmedabad] until 10 or 11 on the night before and said if we play cautiously at the start it will be all right. It is easier to play fast bowling than spin out there because the ball is not coming on to the bat. If you are patient you will score runs."

Why is this so perverse? Because Sehwag cruised to his century in just 90 balls. England's perspiring bowlers may be grateful that he opted to bat with such "caution".

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Vic Marks in Ahmedabad, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 15th November 2012 15.09 Europe/London

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