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England morale blow as Swann retires ahead of fourth Test

Graeme Swann’s decision to retire before the fourth Test came hot on the heels of an apology for crass comments he had made about the Perth Test.

The off-spinner announced on Saturday that he would be quitting international and first class cricket with immediate effect.

Swann explained: “This decision has been very difficult, seeing as the England team has been my family for seven years now, but I feel that now is the right time to step down.

“I feel that it is a great time for someone else to strap themselves in and hopefully enjoy the ride as much as I have.”

The Nottinghamshire bowler had been considering retirement for some time, but, with injury plaguing his bowling, has decided that now is the time to depart.

England won by an innings and 157 in the last Boxing Day Test

Swann, who took 255 wickets in 60 Tests, was an integral part of three Ashes-winning teams however he leaves with England struggling to avoid total humiliation “Down Under”.

Australia currently hold an unassailable 3-0 lead after setting the visitors an unreachable target of 504 at Perth, which, although they tried to chase down, they came up short by 150 runs.

The margins of victory (381 runs in Brisbane, 218 in Adelaide and 150 in Perth) are an accurate reflection of the Aussies’ dominance in this series.

Indeed, so confident are they about further wins, that they let three players take part in the 20 Over Big Bash League this weekend.

One silver lining to emerge from the Perth cloud was the performance of all-rounder Ben Stokes.

The Durham star was playing in just his second Test, but made 120 in the second innings and showed the sort of fight and resolution that England have been missing in the series so far.

He is sure to keep his place in a side that now heads to Melbourne and the MCG.

The ground will be a cauldron of noise and taunting, however this time it is likely to be the near-100,000-strong crowd rather than the Aussie players; tickets for Boxing Day sold out two months ago.

Graeme Swann took 255 wickets in 60 Tests

Swann’s decision – the timing of which has been lambasted in certain areas of the press – is yet another blow on a tour which has staggered from disappointment to disappointment for the players and coaches.

Three-time-winning Ashes Head Coach Andy Flower has received flak from many quarters over his refusal to commit to his future in that role.

Meanwhile Jonathan Trott flew home from the tour in November to try and combat the effects of depression and stress.

Whilst Swann’s timing isn’t perfect, it does provide the chance for England to blood new talent and it will also give Monty Panesar the opportunity to turn around his International career.

Joe Root can also turn his hand to off-spin so England should have enough cover in the squad and the likelihood is that Chris Tremlett will come back into the team.

Prior to Swann’s decision, there had been rumours that Flower would drop the out of form Matt Prior in favour of Jonny Bairstow.

However that move may now have been put on hold as, with Swann gone, Flower will need all the experienced players he can get his hands on in what promises to be an intimidating atmosphere.