Australia’s top order will try to hammer home the pain for a dispirited and depleted England after the tourists’ most successful spinner in years retired from international and first-class cricket midway through the Ashes series.
The surprise announcement by Graeme Swann comes days after England surrendered the Ashes urn in the third Test in Perth to fall 3-0 behind in the five-match series, and continues a tumultuous campaign for the visitors both and on off the field.
The 34-year-old Northampton man said his body was no longer up to the rigour of long-form cricket and that it would be selfish for him to stay in a team that needed to rebuild.
“It’s quite simple, when I came out on this trip, I half expected it to be my last tour for England,” he said at the Melbourne Cricket Ground where the fourth Test starts on Thursday.
It's time for England to rebuild and refocus on winning back these big series and me hanging around with the decision already made in my head wouldn't be right.
“I was desperately hoping to win the Ashes out here again, like we did in 2010/11 but with the Ashes gone now, with those three Test matches, personally I think to stay on and selfishly play just to experience another Boxing Day Test, Sydney Test match would be wrong.
“It’s time for someone else to strap themselves in and enjoy the ride like I have done. It’s time for England to rebuild and refocus on winning back these big series and me hanging around with the decision already made in my head wouldn’t be right.”
Swann had long been Australia’s Ashes tormentor, playing a key role in England’s run of three successive series wins against their arch-rivals, but has been a shadow of the guileful off-spinner that topped the bowling table with 26 wickets in the northern Ashes, which England won 3-0.
He had managed only seven wickets for the current series at 80 runs apiece and was brutally punished by Australia’s batsmen in their second innings at the WACA.
Lehmann’s team are chasing a 5-0 whitewash and revenge for the torment of recent years against their greatest rivals.
Australia opener Chris Rogers has hit two fifties in his six Ashes innings but said on Saturday he still felt on shaky ground. Lehman said the 36-year-old would keep his place in what he hoped would be an unchanged side for the Melbourne Test.
“Our top order know they have to make some more runs and one of the big things is making them in the first innings,” Lehmann said on Sunday.
“We need our guys performing straight up, day one, if we bat first.”
Lehmann did not want his side to become distracted by the crisis in the England camp exacerbated by the departure of Swann and the earlier departure of Jonathan Trott.
“To have two senior guys not play, that’s maybe an advantage, but also younger guys get a chance,” Lehmann said.
“I only worry about us. That’s how we deal with it and that’s all we can do.
“I’m sure they weren’t worried about us last time either,” he added, in reference to the 3-0 Ashes defeat in England.