Panesar's heroics put selectors in a spin

England 269-9 dec & 82-0 Pakistan Cricket Board XI 200-9 dec: England must decide whether to abandon four-bowler policy as Monty takes five

ICC Global Cricket Academy

Last time Monty Panesar played a Test match for England, he walked off the ground a hero. Over 11 gripping overs, during which he faced 35 balls with a vigilance befitting a sentry at the gates of heaven, he kept Australia at bay.

How the nation cheered. The draw was secured in Cardiff that July evening in 2009 and England went on to fight another day. And that was that for Monty. Not required again in the series, his career went into decline.

It took him a year or so and a change of counties to restore order. But his place in the Test team had gone, taken by Graeme Swann, who has become not only the world's leading spin bowler but a knowing cheeky chappy to match Monty's more eccentric loveability. But yesterday Panesar provided England with a genuine selection dilemma for the first Test against Pakistan, which begins here on Tuesday. In 29 overs of largely controlled left arm-spin, he took 5 for 57 against the Pakistan Board XI.

Swann, of course, will play in the Test match, one of the many names to be joint second on the England team sheet these days. The question is whether two spinners are needed in the match.

England have picked two only once since Panesar was omitted after the Cardiff match. That was in Bangladesh in early 2010 when Panesar was out of the squad rebuilding his game, and James Tredwell accompanied Swann.

In the only two previous Tests to have been played in Dubai, each side has played at least two spinners. England have not got where they are today by doing what others do, but if South Africa can play both Paul Harris and Johan Botha, neither of whom is barely fit to be in the same net as Swann and Panesar, as they did in November 2010, it will cross their minds. It seems certain that Pakistan will play Saeed Ajmal, who is being billed as a combination of Muttiah Muralitharan and Merlin, as well as their left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman. They will also have the opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez as an authentic third spinning option.

That being the case, it does not take much to work out that the pitch may grant the slow men a few favours. But as Panesar himself said after play yesterday: "We have got very skilful bowlers with our seamers as well. Over the last 12 months they have learnt how to reverse swing and they understand how to bowl in these conditions. We have got a whole squad balance where many permutations can happen and still be successful out here."

England's usual balance lately has been six batsmen, four bowlers and a wicketkeeper. It took them on a march of glory around Australia last winter, it toppled India from their perch last summer. They may well conclude that what did then will do now, though the pressure on Swann to produce would be enormous. The likelihood, too, is that he would have to bowl an enormous amount of overs, probably in both innings, because England do not expect to bowl out Pakistan much under 120 overs. A holding role in the first innings may well be followed by a more attacking one in the second.

But the seamers would have to take plenty of wickets too – and it can be done in Dubai, as Pakistan have shown. Umar Gul and Junaid Khan, who are both swing exponents, took seven wickets between them in the defeat of Sri Lanka in October.

If Panesar were to play, England could play him as part of a four-man or five-man attack. That means they could drop a batsman, probably Eoin Morgan, and ask Matt Prior to move up to six. Nothing wrong with that but it would mean Stuart Broad moving up to seven.

Given the state of their batting so far, they may be reluctant to take that particular plunge. The alternative is to play two spinners and two fast bowlers, which would still leave them with a lot of bowling to do. But it might ensure that the least England could expect would be a draw.

The absence of Tim Bresnan is suddenly looking especially unfortunate. Bresnan has developed into something more than a reliable performer. With both bat and ball he can have an impact at important moments in games.

Had he not had to leave the tour because of his injured elbow, Panesar would have been easier to fit into the side. As it is, the gut feeling is that England will stick with what they know.

But Panesar reminded us of some of his gifts yesterday. He bowled a beautiful length for most of his spell, which included 22 consecutive overs. He made sure the batsmen had to play forward to kill what spin there was and had his fielders placed precisely.

Three of his wickets fell to catches behind, to the wicketkeeper, one to slip, another went to a bat-and-pad catch, another was leg before. It was a mini-classic of its kind. The turn was gentle perhaps but turn it was.

He did not exactly outbowl Swann, but equally Swann has not yet repelled the suggestion that he is short of bowling. England should have finished the PCB XI off at 119 for 8 but they went on to make 200 for 9 declared.

In the evening, Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott put on 82 for 0 to extend England's lead to 151. Panesar will have something to bowl at again today.

Making room for Monty: England's options

Play five batsmen

This would mean omitting Eoin Morgan and moving wicketkeeper/batsman Matt Prior up to six with Stuart Broad at seven. Graeme Swann would bat eight and the tail would consist of Jimmy Anderson, Monty Panesar and probably Steve Finn edging out Chris Tremlett. The tail may look a little long but five bowlers could bring 20 wickets more readily.

Play four bowlers

England are likely to stick with the status quo, i.e. pick six batsmen (including Morgan), a wicketkeeper (Prior) and four bowlers. But they could ditch the extra seamer – Finn or Tremlett – and go in with just two pacemen – Broad and Anderson. The spinners, Swann and Panesar, would be expected to bowl perhaps 120 overs between them. It would be bold and defensive all at once.

Dubai scoreboard

Warm-up match, ICC Global Cricket Academy. Second day of three; Pakistan Cricket Board XI won toss

England XI: First Innings 269-9 dec (A N Cook 133, M J Prior 46; Shah 5-75)

Pakistan Cricket Board XI: First Innings (overnight: 23-0)

Jamshed lbw b Onions 12

Raheem lbw b Tremlett 17

Ayub c Prior b Panesar 33

Salahuddin c Prior b Tremlett 23

Fawad Alam c Strauss b Panesar 7

Sohail lbw b Panesar 6

Ahmed c Trott b Swann 0

Shah c Swann b Panesar 9

Hasan not out 50

Talha c Prior b Panesar 31

Mohammad Khalil not out 1

Extras (b3 lb6 w2) 11

Total 9 wkts dec (79 overs) 200

Fall 1-24 2-40 3-78 4-91 5-101 6-106 7-110 8-119 9-173.

Bowling Onions 13-3-52-1, Tremlett 14-7-30-2, Swann 21-5-49-1, Panesar 29-12-57-5, Pietersen 2-0-3-0.

England XI: Second Innings

*A J Strauss not out 36

I J L Trott not out 39

Extras (b4 w1 nb2) 7

Total (for 0 wkts, 22 overs) 82

To bat A N Cook, K P Pietersen, I R Bell, E J G Morgan, M J Prior†, G P Swann, G Onions, M S Panesar, C T Tremlett

Bowling Talha 6-1-32-0, Mohammad Khalil 5-2-12-0, Hasan 7-0-26-0, Shah 3-0-5-0, Ayub 1-0-3-0.

Umpires Ahsan Raza (Pak) and Shozab Raza (Pak).

world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice