I wasn't trying to bowl any different, says Sikh of Tweak

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The Independent Online

There are two Monty Panesars. The first is the spinning magician, the Sikh of Tweak, who bamboozles batsmen and, having ensnared them, cavorts wildly, eyes bulging, joy unconfined. This is a man who knows how to live life, whose glass is always half-full.

The second is the sober chap who discusses these deeds in tones so anodyne it makes you feel like buying a ticket to hear a chartered accountant reading a balance sheet. This is a man of caution, whose glass in never other than half-empty.

"It was important for me to get the balls in the right areas especially on the first day," he said. "I wasn't really trying to bowl any different. I was pleased to get my first five-for on an Ashes tour."

The right areas? Pleased? Gadzooks, man. Panesar had just taken 5 for 92, the perfect response to the selectors who had ignored him for the first two matches of this series and just what those who had pleaded for his inclusion here in Perth predicted. Yet he barely broke into a smile let alone an upbeat metaphor.

Either Panesar has a double, one to perform the trickery, another to be the stooge. Or the England and Wales Cricket Board is concentrating as much on coaching its charges in the art of saying nothing as they are in cricket skills. This is expanding too far the meaning of playing a straight bat.

There have been petitions on the BBC for Monty to play in this series and there might have been questions in the House had he been overlooked again. Yet all he could admit to was that it was up there with his best days on a cricket pitch. "I got picked for the Ashes squad and the selectors felt I should be here," he said. "I trust their judgement about when I should play." He could hardly berate them but he must be the only man on two continents who by now trusted the selectors' judgement.

It could be argued that his figures were the most impressive in an innings by an England bowler at Perth. Both Bob Willis and Ian Botham had better figures on the ground more than a quarter of a century ago but one was performing against Australia's second team when the first XI broke away to join the World Series and in the other the Ashes were not up for grabs.

Only 18 bowlers had previously taken five wickets in their first innings against Australia and since two of those were Sydney Barnes and Botham, the company Panesar is now in speaks for itself. In fact, when he spoke about putting it in the right areas, Panesar was being economical with the truth.

He did not put it in them as often as he ought and had trouble hitting the right length. Two of his wickets came from short balls from which Andrew Symonds and Shane Warne perished trying to cut. It was the appropriate shot indifferently executed.

But enormous credit still belongs to Panesar. When Symonds plundered 17 off a single over, including two straight sixes, the bowler - and his captain, Andrew Flintoff - held nerve. He rewarded the faith with wickets in successive overs.

The batsman who eluded Panesar as he eluded everybody else was Hussey, who has earned the sobriquet Mr Cricket so dedicated is he to the game. Hussey's four innings in this series have been 86, 91, 61 not out and the 74 not out he made yesterday.

Hussey is in the form of his life but he probably knows cricket will bite him back. He was virtually strokeless when the ball was moving around early on but the point is that he did not put a foot or bat wrong.

"Panesar bowled well but got the rewards," said Hussey, who perhaps benefited from their days at Northamptonshire. Stories are legion of how Hussey wanted to bat and Panesar wanted to bowl, so they would end up in the nets together day after day.

"I have seen a lot of him," said Hussey. "There wasn't a lot of spin and he bowls with a lot of discipline for a young spinner which is a pretty tough ask." He did not say whether he had seen much of the other Monty.

Ball of the Day

Brett Lee would be one of the best fast bowlers in the world if he bowled with greater consistency, but there was little any player could have done against the ball Ian Bell faced yesterday evening.

Shot of the Day

Andrew Symonds promised to play his natural game in the Test and he did that when he struck Monty Panesar back over his head for six. Sadly for Australia, he reverted to type soon after.

Moment of the Day

Ricky Ponting is the batsman Australia build an innings around. In the first two Tests he scored a big hundred and his side posted a big score. In Perth he went cheaply and Australia struggled.

Debate of the Day

Was it good England bowling or complacency from Australia that led to 244 all out? Both. This was England's best bowling display of the tour but several Australian batsmen will be disappointed.