Sussex lay down Panesar challange

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The Independent Online

Monty Panesar has been challenged to become Sussex's number one spinner in all forms of the game after signing a three-year deal at Hove.

England outcast Panesar is hoping for a new lease of life on the south coast after being released 12 months early from his contract with Northamptonshire.

Considered something of a first-class specialist during a career which has stalled of late, his new environment will also offer the chance to become a one-day regular despite the club's overwhelming success in the shorter formats.

Twenty20 champions Sussex appear well stocked for slow bowlers with Will Beer, Ollie Rayner, Rory Hamilton-Brown and captain Michael Yardy all viable options.

But coach Mark Robinson said: "What we haven't got is a frontline spinner and Monty fits the bill.

"We want people who can change the course of a game - and people who can spin the ball hard and away from the bat probably fit into that category.

"Monty can come on when a game is going nowhere and, by the strength of his skill, completely change its complexion."

Despite a two-trophy campaign in 2009 - they also won the Pro40 title - Sussex were relegated in the County Championship and Robinson views Panesar's potential productivity as a crucial ingredient for a swift return to the top flight.

However, it will need a distinct change in form from the 27-year-old, who claimed just 18 first-class victims at an average of 59.44 for Northants last summer.

"One of the reasons we went down is because we couldn't get enough wickets," said Robinson. "To sign people who take wickets is hard but we believe we have signed one. "Now Monty must come and perform. He's a dangerous cricketer with a point to prove and I sense he is hungry."

Left-arm spinner Panesar raced to 100 Test wickets in just over two years, after making his England debut in the spring of 2006, but the supply dried up and he was eventually axed after saving the first Ashes Test with the bat in Cardiff this summer.

Panesar, currently playing for Highveld Lions in South African domestic cricket, said: "Success in this new challenge with Sussex can only improve my chances of reclaiming my place in the England standings, which is the pinnacle for any player."