In an astonishing confession yesterday, Monty Panesar took the blame for England's dismal defeat in the second Test. Since Panesar took six wickets in Pakistan's second innings and was also the not out batsman in England's inexorable decline to 72 all out, it was an unexpected mea culpa.
But Panesar, who made his return to the Test team after almost three years and 29 matches, insisted it was a fair cop after his return in the first innings on a turning pitch. "I should have taken wickets at a quicker rate," he said. "Thirty-three overs with one wicket possibly cost the match."
Panesar might have made more of the circumstances than his 1 for 91 but, after such a long international absence, it was always probable that he would take time to rediscover his rhythm. He re-established his partnership with the off-spinner, Graeme Swann, who took over from him as the side's leading (and usually solitary) spinner early in 2009.
The pair spent four years as a spin partnership at Northamptonshire, starting in 2001 when they each took eight wickets in a 202-run win against Leicestershire.
"I have got to go away and learn how to take wickets quicker," Panesar said. "In the first innings Swanny carried me. He has been great for me. I have always enjoyed the partnership with him."
These are beneficial times to be a spinner in Test cricket. The Umpire Decision Review System has opened up a new world of possibilities and as Panesar pointed out it is not simply lbw that is in greater play.
"I think DRS in general has had an impact on all spinners," he said. "Batsmen can't play defensively with the pad. You have got to use the bat and it's bringing the outside edge and the inside edge into play. That is keeping the finger spinners in the game a lot more and umpires are beginning to see that the ball hits the stumps more often than you thought it would."
Panesar seems certain to keep his place for the third Test, which starts in Dubai on Friday. If it is played on the same surface as the first match in the series at the International Cricket Stadium it will offer both sets of spinners cause for optimism.
It would be perverse for England to change the bowling, especially as, despite Panesar's protestations to the contrary, it was the batsmen who cost England the game in an oddly inert collapse. Whereas in the first innings of the first Test, when Saeed Ajmal prompted their downfall, they played too many shots, in the second innings of the second Test in Abu Dhabi they played too few.
Nobody is saying much as yet but Ravi Bopara must come into serious consideration for a place. England have confirmed that they are not replacing the injured Chris Tremlett – making Panesar's participation more likely. There are two spare fast bowlers, Steve Finn and Graham Onions.Reuse content