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Nasser Hussain
Cricket Expert & Columnist

Ashes 2013/14: Australian plan to nullify Graeme Swann's spin has started well

England may have to consider deploying a five-man attack if Australia continue to have the measure of spinner Graeme Swann, say Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton.

Spinner Swann claimed 26 wickets at 29 apiece as England won the Ashes 3-0 this summer but he has so far found the going tough on this tour, taking 0-80 and 2-135 as Australia have taken control of the first Test at Brisbane.

Perfect day for Warner

Swann conceded five runs an over as David Warner (124) and Michael Clarke (113) powered Australia to 401-7 declared in their second innings, on day three - setting England 561 to win - before the hosts reduced England to 24-2 before the close.

Hussain told the Sky Sports Ashes podcast that Australia have a deliberate plan to target Swann in a bid to force skipper Alastair Cook to over-bowl his seamers.

"It wasn't just the runs that Clarke and Warner scored but the speed they got them - they were virtually run-a-ball hundreds," said the former England captain. "The pair of them smashed it everywhere.

"The ways they both played Swann was vital, not only in the context of the game but the Test series. They are keen to belt Swann out of the attack, meaning Cook will have to go back to Broad, Anderson and Tremlett and that will wear them down.

"They are both very good players of spin. The pitches and the addition of Warner has nullified the spin threat of Swann from the summer."

Strategy

Hussain's fellow Sky Cricket pundit Mike Atherton agreed that Australia have taken specific steps to attempt to nullify Swann's impact on the series.

"When you are bowled out for 136 in your first innings all of the problems in the field get magnified so your bowlers look less incisive, your fielders look a bit scrappier and it's not easy for the spinner to bowl because you can't have people around the bat and the batsmen are under less pressure," he said.

"However, I do think that Australia are starting to play Swann a bit better. He didn't have a brilliant tour last time three years ago. What Australia have done since the summer is pack that middle-order with right-handers - they've got rid of Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja.

"The only left-hander in the top order is Warner and he plays Swann very well so it is a slight concern for England.

"I think as captain after this game you'd say 'look, the real problem here is the lack or runs in the first innings. You've got to focus your attention on getting that right and you hope that the experience bowlers like Swann and Anderson and Broad will have enough about them to pick up wickets if there are runs on the board.

"But it is a crucial part of England's strategy because they've gone in for the last few years with a four-man attack and that has been based on Swann getting through a lot of overs and being both an attacking and a defensive weapon.

"Not many batsmen have collared him and he's always looked as though he will be an attacking weapon for them so if that's not going to be the case in this series, then that could become a problem for England."

Different

Looking ahead to day four, Hussain admitted that England's chances of saving the game look "very bleak".

"All credit to Australia for the way they've come back in this Test match. If you go back to the first day when they were 132-6, they were really struggling and everyone was writing them off.

"A couple of days later they have completely turned this game around. This is a completely different Australia from what we saw turning up at Trent Bridge a few months ago. It's going to be hard work for England from now on in."

Listen to the podcast in full by clicking here, or check it out via Soundcloud below...

Watch highlights of today's play on Sky Sports 2 and On Demand from 6.30pm before The Ashes Verdict (9pm) and Ashes Extra (11pm) hit your screens ahead of coverage of day four, from 11.30pm - also on Sky Sports 2.