Graeme Swann has backed England to make their highest ever fourth-innings chase after declaring “history is there to be rewritten”.
England need to reach 340 to win the first Test against Sri Lanka, eight more than their best successful chase against Australia in 1928.
They resume on the fourth morning on 111 for two, with Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen in position. “I’d say we’re just favourites,” he said.
“I don’t like statistics. Just because somebody won a game in 1912 chasing 290 or someone got 350 in the Kerry Packer era doesn’t mean anything. This is 2012. History is there to be rewritten. I don’t think we need any genius, we just need good old fashioned rolling your sleeves up and getting your head down.
“The way KP and Trotty batted at the end is what we need to do. They got their heads down, they kept out the good ones, they made batting look as serene as it’s going to get out there.
“People who actually apply themselves are hard to shift on that pitch.”
Swann, who had completed his 12th five-wicket haul earlier in the day, is England’s most ready optimist but even he admitted a sense of frustration had crept in at the end of the Sri Lanka innings. The last two wickets yielded a total of 87 runs, with 46 added after a no-ball denied Stuart Broad the final scalp.
“Sure there have been moments of frustration,” he said.
“That next 40 minutes (after the no-ball) hurt a little bit. You’re looking at a chase of 285, 290 and thinking ‘we’re going to win this’. At 340, you think it’s maybe tipped back to a 50-50 game.
“Those 40-odd runs were very hot and bothering for all the fielders, as you saw because we were at each other’s necks by the end.”