Panesar is shaking but not stirred before Test

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The Independent Online

Monty Panesar was shaking yesterday when he spoke about England's defence of the Ashes. Fortunately for Andrew Flintoff's side, his actions were not in fear of the prospect of taking on Australia, or in rage at comments made by Glenn McGrath who suggested that the left-arm spinner was soft for needing to see a sports psychologist before his visit Down Under.

Panesar was shaking because he was cold, sat in nothing more than a T-shirt on a bandstand in Ruskin Park, Brixton, where the England and Wales Cricket Board announced that npower, at a cost of £10m, would continue to sponsor Test cricket in England until the end of 2009.

Brixton and Brisbane have little in common, but it will be in hot, humid Queensland in just over three weeks where Panesar's reputation as one of the best finger spinners in the world will be put to its severest test yet.

The return of Ashley Giles, who was declared fit to tour on Sunday, will ensure that competition for the solitary spinning spot in Brisbane is keen, but it is to be hoped that England opt for Panesar who offers far more with the ball than his team-mate. Panesar was tactful when asked whether he thought Giles' presence placed him under increased pressure.

"This will be the first time that Ashley has been in the same squad as myself and I am keen to learn from him," he said. "He has vast experience and I will watch the way he prepares and goes about his business.

"There is a chance that we will play two spinners in Sydney and Adelaide, and possibly even in Perth. A lot will depend on our team tactics and our seam attack, which is probably our strength out there. I know that I am not guaranteed a spot in the first Test and I will be doing my best to adapt to the conditions, along with the different ball we use, in the warm-up games. It is then up to the coach and the captain to decide."

Panesar has experience of playing in Australia, he was at the National Academy in Adelaide in 2002-03 and that ought to help him to acclimatise quickly, giving him an advantage over Giles who has not bowled competitively for almost a year. Getting sledged by McGrath indicates that Panesar's bowling last summer has made an impact within the Australia ranks.

"It is quite flattering," Panesar said. "Eighteen months ago people in Australia had probably never heard of me, but now they seem to know who I am and what I do. It's just typical pre-Ashes stuff. It is something we have to accept."

* The Pakistan Cricket Board has demanded that the International Cricket Council investigates the actions of the umpire Darrell Hair during and after the fourth Test against England. Hair accused the Pakistan team of ball tampering which led to them refusing to take the field and the Test being abandoned. The PCB believes an inquiry will have a bearing on the £800,000 compensation claim the England and Wales Cricket Board is making against it. Hair's actions will be discussed at the ICC executives' meeting which begins in Dubai on Friday.