Panesar on his way to South Africa

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James Anderson & Monty Panesar

Monty Panesar, right, played one crucial role in the npower Ashes series, helping save the Cardiff Test

Monty Panesar has joined South African franchise Highveld Lions as he attempts to win back his England place.

The 27-year-old Northamptonshire spinner was not on the list of central contracts awarded by the ECB last month, having slipped behind Graeme Swann and Adil Rashid in the international pecking order.

England tour South Africa this winter, with the first Test starting at Centurion on December 16, and Panesar’s presence in the country may increase his chances of playing some part in the four-Test series.

“I am delighted to be joining the Lions as the overseas professional for the South African domestic season this English winter,” said Panesar.

“To play first-class cricket for such a prestigious team is a privileged opportunity, and one which I am relishing.”

Panesar took just 18 wickets for Northants in LV= County Championship Division Two this season at an average of 59.44. However, he did turn in some economical performances for the Steelbacks in limited-overs cricket.

He was left out of the Northants side for their final championship game of the season against Leicestershire at Wantage Road.

The left-armer, who has 126 Test wickets to his name, is also hoping to improve his fielding and batting in his time with the franchise.

“Having practised with (head coach) Dave Nosworthy and the Lions players last January for 10 days prior to going to West Indies with England, I know what superb facilities and friendly people await me in Johannesburg,” he added.

“(Chief executive) Alan Kourie was very helpful to me on my last trip, and I look forward to picking his and other people’s brains further as I seek to develop my bowling and all-round game in the challenging environment of South African cricket.

“Additionally, I welcome the opportunity to work with young cricketers and their coaches in South Africa to help the next generation of people achieve their dreams in whatever way I can.”

Panesar has not played for England since this year’s first npower Ashes Test against Australia at Cardiff, where his last-wicket resistance alongside James Anderson helped England salvage a draw.

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