Panesar just looking ahead
Only one result in the third Test with Pakistan at Dubai will do for Monty Panesar.
The left-arm spinner was perhaps England’s greatest source of encouragement in the defeat at Abu Dhabi that gave the designated hosts an unassailable series lead.
On his return after two and a half years out of the team, Panesar took seven wickets including 6-62 in the second innings to set England 145 for victory.
Should he keep his place for the series finale at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Panesar will likely need to remain a potent threat to aid victory.
Such a result will ensure Andrew Strauss’ side remain top of the International Cricket Council rankings by the annual April 1 cut-off, which will earn them US$175,000.
If they suffer a whitewash, the reverse outcome for South Africa in their three-Test rubber with hosts New Zealand during March will see the Proteas take over and scoop the jackpot - leaving England with a second prize of US$75,000.
Panesar and his team-mates are desperate to avoid that.
“The boys are still upbeat and looking forward to the third Test,” Panesar, whose previous senior England appearance was in the 2009 Ashes opener at Cardiff, said.
“They want to prove we can do well here against Pakistan - we’re determined to put on a good show in the third Test.
“We’re trying to put everything behind us and trying to look forward to the third Test.”
Panesar was part of an impressive England bowling performance at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
It is as a batting unit the tourists must improve, having been dismissed for 72 - their lowest score versus Pakistan - in Saturday’s second innings.
“As batsmen, we did get tested - and we’re determined to come back stronger in the third Test,” added Panesar.
“With conditions out here, the Pakistani bowlers maybe had more of the luck with the conditions - because they had a fourth-innings track with some cracks.
“The guys have been tested, but we all really want to put on a good show and we hope we can bounce back and play with a lot of pride and produce a good result [in Dubai].
“Pakistan have played good cricket out here. But the [England] batters have done exceptionally well over the last 18 months. They’ve batted well against all types of bowlers.
“They’re determined, and I’m very much confident that as a team we will work really hard in the next few days to get the result that we want in the third Test.”
Panesar was happy with his second-innings figures, but was critical of returning 1-91 in Pakistan’s first.
“I was pleased with my performance in the second innings. But maybe I let the team down in the first innings,” he said.
“I didn’t take wickets at a quick enough rate, and Swanny (Graeme Swann) kind of carried me - helping me out - and made me feel part of the team. It’s nice to bowl with him and bowl in tandem.”
Besides Swann, Panesar can look to Pakistan’s specialist spinners - Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman - for encouragement.
Both have returned international-best figures in this rubber: Ajmal with 7-55 in the first innings at Dubai and Rehman with 6-25 in the second at Abu Dhabi.
“Pakistan bowled well in that last innings - and in the first innings I took one wicket in 33 overs,” Panesar added.
“I need to pick up wickets at a quicker rate. That’s something I want to develop and improve.”
Strauss turned to Panesar after five overs of Pakistan’s second knock, which Panesar revealed boosted his self-esteem.
“Playing in the sub-continent is different from English conditions, and we all want to grow and learn and become better at coping,” he said.
“I enjoy the challenge of bowling with the new ball early on, and Straussy gave me that confidence in terms of bringing me on early.”