Swann's character shines through
One of the more irritating aspects of Australia's dominance over England in the 1990s and much of the 2000s was the fact that, as well as being superior cricketers, the Aussies rather dwarfed their arch rivals in the personality stakes.
There was Matthew Hayden with his recipe books and charity work, Justin Langer with his black belt in Zen Do Kai, self-help books and charity work, Steve Waugh with his photography books and charity work - and then there was Shane Warne, who did plenty of charity work between producing a few dozen books-worth of off-field controversy.
Then, when they'd had their fill of thrashing the old enemy, they'd turn up periodically on Test Match Special and reveal that, contrary to what most Englishmen thought, they were actually rather convivial chaps and, most irritatingly of all, thoroughly good blokes.
The importance of personality - or charisma, or substance, or whatever you want to call it - occurred to me when I asked Phil Tufnell what it was that made Graeme Swann, who took his 100th Test wicket on day two of the third Test against Pakistan on Thursday, so special.
"He takes wickets, he takes catches, he smacks it around down the order," said Tufnell, becoming ever more animated, before adding: "And he brings character."
Tufnell as a player was proof of that old adage, made famous by 'The Wolf' in Pulp Fiction, that "just because you are a character doesn't mean you have character." A fine performer on his day, the Australians, fans included, knew that, where 'The Cat' was concerned, a spot of 'mental disintegration' could go a long way.
But Swann, who reached his latest milestone in 23 Tests - the same as Warne and Glenn McGrath and 'Deadly' Derek Underwood, perhaps England's greatest modern-day spinner - has blossomed into one of those players who is able to bring his off-field spirit onto the field of play.
Lead singer of a covers band, Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations (available for weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvahs in the Nottinghamshire area), Swann is also an engaging interviewee with a nice line in repartee - witness his putdown of team-mate Kevin Pietersen in a recent Twitter exchange: "Such a shame my teammates are so remedial in their 'banter'. Must be because they're all South African."
Graeme Swann is not one to hide his emotions
Tufnell, who toured South Africa with Swann in 1999-2000, puts his old drinking buddy's growth as a person and a bowler down to the years Swann spent in international exile: considered by England coach Duncan Fletcher to be "immature", both as a person and a bowler, but mature enough to get his nose to the grindstone and graft his way back to the top.
"In many ways he's an old-school cricketer," said Tufnell. "He's done the hard yards in county cricket, served his apprenticeship, developed the variations - tossing it up, mixing up the pace, moving around the crease, he's a good, thinking spin bowler.
"If he's not the best spin bowler in the world at the moment he'd have to be close. He's a huge part of the England attack, a real 'go-to' guy for Andrew Strauss. He can be relied upon to hold up an end so the seamers can rotate and also to take wickets."
Tufnell also suggested Swann's happy knack of taking wickets in the first over of spells - he managed the feat twice again on Thursday - could be down to batsmen playing the man rather than the delivery, perhaps the surest sign of a bowler bringing his charisma to bear.
Personality - or charisma, or substance, or whatever you want to call it - has been sorely lacking from many of England's players on Ashes tours since England last won down under in 1986-87, and to that end Tufnell believes Swann will be a key figure this winter.
"He'll be massive to England," said Tufnell, who toured Australia twice. "Finger spinners don't usually have a huge impact because of the Kookaburra ball and because the wickets are flat.
"But the Aussies will be fearing him more than he fears them, and they have a lot of left-handers, who he bowls well to. They'll target him, which is the height of respect, and which could also play into Swanny's hands."
The look on Steve Finn's face as Mohammad Yousuf glided him through third man for a second successive four said it all: "Aaah, so this is what proper Test cricket is all about."
On Wednesday, a well-respected Pakistani journalist had told us that Yousuf was "mentally shot to bits", before adding: "Don't expect him to make more than 30." Yousuf ended up making a classy 56.
It is to England's benefit that Yousuf proved our Pakistani journalist friend wrong - feeling his way into his innings before finding his touch and unfurling an array of trademark strokes, it was certainly what proper Test batting was all about. Stick it in the memory bank, Finny, there'll be plenty more of that this winter.