Monty Panesar’s difficulties this season have been well-documented. Short on confidence after being discarded by England, he has toiled away to little effect in the second division, picking up six championship wickets for Northamptonshire at a cost of 86.
He has had his self-belief further eroded by the success of the current incumbent in the national set-up. Graeme Swann is the mirror image of Panesar: self-assured, confident in the media glare and talented in all facets of the game. Swann has flourished with the ball and is one of the first names on the Test team sheet.
Panesar was included in the warm-up match against Warwickshire due to the supposed spin-friendly nature of the first Test wicket at Cardiff.
Far from being under pressure, Panesar’s international career has been given a lifeline at a time when it would otherwise have been interrupted for a long period. England rarely play two spinners at home; Panesar can now look forward to playing a match with nothing to lose.
His place as second spinner has been assured this week. Panesar’s three cheap tailenders wickets at Edgbaston hardly constitute a return to form, but combined with Adil Rashid’s wicketless return from 14 overs against Australia at Worcester it can be taken as the beginning of season spin bowling pecking order being maintained.
Graham Onions, Steve Harmison and Tim Bresnan were all in the wickets at New Road and it is far from certain that England will play two spinners at the Swalec stadium. Ryan Sidebottom has proved his fitness and the home side might decide to go with four seamers, especially if they decide the potential role of spin has been overplayed.
Much was made of Panesar’s struggles at Cardiff last month – he took two for 149 from 44 overs – but he was not the only spinner to miss out. The other four spinners on show took only six of the other 25 wickets to fall and it could be that England will be relying on conditions that won’t prevail if they choose two slow men.
If they do, Panesar will surely return to the limelight. He has had his confidence boosted and will feel vindicated in returning to his tried and trusted method of accuracy rather than variation. Now Nathan Hauritz is the only under-fire spinner who can’t buy a wicket.
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