Panesar prepared for Test recall
Monty Panesar is ready to finally play his 40th Test if England decide they require his services against Pakistan.
Panesar, who took the plaudits with figures of 5-57 against a Pakistan Cricket Board XI in England’s final warm-up match before the first of three Tests starting on Tuesday, has not featured at the highest level since mid-summer 2009.
It was then that his 39th appearance made the headlines not for an outstanding bowling performance but last-ditch defiance as a tailender to salvage a draw in Cardiff at the start of England’s 2-1 Ashes series triumph.
Since then, England have most often relied on Panesar’s former Northamptonshire team-mate Graeme Swann as the sole spinner in a four-man attack.
But the International Cricket Council’s number-one ranked Test team may sense that formula needs revision to help them conquer an alien frontier, against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Panesar’s performance today - in the PCB XI’s 200 for nine declared - served notice of his well-being, and afterwards he said: “I’ve given myself an opportunity to get used to the conditions, and given myself a good chance to be ready.
“So if they want to play two spinners, I’m ready to play.”
Panesar cites his move from Northants to Sussex two years ago, and his experience as an overseas player in South Africa and Australia, as vital staging posts in his continued development and perhaps his rehabilitation as a Test bowler.
“I’m hungry to play Test cricket - and if or when the opportunity presents itself I’ve got to be ready,” he said.
“I want to be part of this successful England team. I’ve been bowling well at Sussex and also had the responsibility of being an overseas player at Randwick Petersham in Sydney and also Highveld Lions.
“That extra responsibility develops you as a person and also helps your game as well.”
Panesar helped England to a 69-run first-innings lead on the second day of three at the ICC Global Cricket Academy ground in Dubai, before Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott bolstered the advantage by another 82 without loss at stumps.
The slow left-armer added: “My belief is a lot stronger now. I think going overseas, to Sydney, helps with your self-belief. My confidence has grown, and that definitely helps your bowling.
“I’ve always stayed hungry to play Test cricket and always worked hard. That’s why I moved to Sussex, to better my game and take on a major responsibility - leading the bowling attack.”
The 29-year-old, who was part of England’s winning squad in last winter’s Ashes but played only in the tour match against Australia A in Hobart, sees his near 30-month absence from Test cricket as an important learning curve rather than a fallow period.
“It’s been a good period for me, in that I had to come out of my comfort zone,” he said.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take a couple of steps back to go forward. I just said to myself: `I’ve got to get in there, work hard and get my hands dirty’.”
As for his re-acquaintance with Swann as a spin partner, that is a prospect he relishes.
“It’s really exciting to have two spinners bowling in tandem, something Swanny and I did at Northants - and we’re very comfortable bowling with each other and helping each other out,” he added.