Monty Panesar stakes claim for England Test return

 

Monty Panesar's timely five-wicket haul today added value to the theory England may yet use him as a second spinner in their Test series against Pakistan.

Panesar (five for 57) took advantage of favourable conditions to outbowl England's first-choice slow bowler Graeme Swann, or at any rate hog the statistics, as the Pakistan Cricket Board chiselled out 200 for nine declared.

Even Panesar could do little about the unexpected resistance provided by teenage tailender Raza Hasan, though, on day two of this second and final warm-up match which concluded with England 82 for none in their second innings, and 151 in front.

Panesar was the only successful bowler in an awkward and extended afternoon session which saw Raza complete an unbeaten 133-ball 50 at the GCA ground.

England did nothing wrong in a passage of play which was informative in terms of what they can expect, in these conditions, during the three-Test series starting next week.

Before Panesar got to work, Graham Onions struck first this morning and Chris Tremlett was twice successful too. Onions, playing his first match for his country in more than two years after a career-threatening back injury, was in business with the fourth ball of the day - after England's opponents had resumed on 23 for none.

The Durham seamer pinned left-hander Nasir Jamshed lbw, and soon afterwards Tremlett shifted the PCB's other opener Afaq Raheem - also lbw, pushing forward.

Mohammad Ayub Dogar and Usman Salahuddin then played fluently, particularly as Onions began to leak runs.

But Tremlett, himself replaced by Panesar, returned to give Onions a rest and took his second wicket in his first over with the wind behind him.

Salahuddin pushed out on the back foot at a delivery outside off-stump, and edged to Matt Prior.

England were therefore already making inroads without a wicket yet from spin, and Swann still waiting for his chance.

But it soon turned out Panesar, who last played a Test at the start of the 2009 Ashes in Cardiff, was merely biding his time.

The slow left-armer began his day with an unpromising full toss, dispatched for four past midwicket by Dogar, but put himself in the last column for the first time when he had Fawad Alam looping a catch to short midwicket off bat and pad.

That was the first of four wickets to fall to spin for 19 runs up to lunch.

Panesar doubled up when Haris Sohail went lbw on the defence; Swann joined in to have PCB captain Sarfraz Ahmed caught at silly-point off bat and pad, and then his spin partner made it three when Dogar was caught behind off a well-flighted delivery.

Only five more had been added either side of lunch when Panesar had Yasir Shah caught at slip by a diving Swann.

But that is where England's patience test began, at the hands of ninth-wicket pair Raza and Mohammad Talha who were mostly watchful - although the latter hit Swann for two big leg-side sixes in one over. It was not until Panesar had Talha edging more turn behind after 28 overs of vain persistEnce that England were rewarded for their efforts.

But even after that, there was no shifting Raza - who grew in confidence and played barely a false shot, belying the fact that his previous-best score in 16 first-class innings was 29.

He brought up his 50 with a crisp off-driven four, his eighth, off Kevin Pietersen - and one run later, the PCB declared.

England did not need to see Alastair Cook bat again here, after his first-innings hundred, so promoted Jonathan Trott - following his two failures from three attempts so far - to open alongside Andrew Strauss.

He responded with a composed share of a stand which should mean England can declare for a second time by early afternoon tomorrow.

That represented an encouraging outcome for England's inked-in Test number three, after his first-innings duck. But today was more about Panesar's wickets than Trott's welcome time in the middle.

PA

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