DUBAI // With screaming engines from practice for the Dubai 24 hour race at the neighbouring Autodrome providing the background noise, England were given evidence that cricket in the UAE is suited to life in the slow-lane yesterday.
If the wail from the endurance cars was not enough to induce a headache for the touring side, then the decision they face over the make-up of their team for the first Test next week might.
Monty Panesar seems a timid soul, but he presented his case for inclusion in the XI in the most forceful terms he could muster, by taking five wickets against the Pakistan Cricket Board side.
His success provides a conundrum for the selectors. England's formula for reaching the summit of Test cricket has been based on three seam-bowlers, plus Graeme Swann as the lone spinner. If they decide Swann will need additional slow-bowling assistance to bowl Pakistan out at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, then Panesar has now proved he is ready.
The left-arm spinner, who is well-versed in UAE conditions having toured here with Sussex before the past two county seasons, has not played Test cricket for two years.
His last cricket of any note was in a grade match beside Coogee Beach in Sydney before Christmas, and he was pleased to get his chance to show his worth in full view of the decision makers.
"I've worked very hard on my game and I am still hungry to play Test cricket," Panesar said. "If and when that opportunity presents itself, I want to be ready for it. If the option is there for [England] to play two spinners, then they know that I'm ready.
"I'm ready to play and there will be no doubts in their minds about selecting me, because I have bowled lots of overs."
With this match being played on the same strip as the first warm-up match at the Global Cricket Academy, this was essentially a fourth day wicket, and Panesar found the wear to his liking. He took five for 57 as the PCB XI declared on 200 for nine.
"I have missed playing for England," he said. "It was nice being able to reconnect with the boys here.
"We have very skilful bowlers in terms of our seamers as well, they have learnt how to bowl reverse swing and bowl in these conditions.
"We have a healthy squad balance where many permutations can happen, which will help us be successful out here."
England will start this morning with a lead of 151, with Jonathan Trott enjoying his best return from four trips to the wicket so far on tour, as he is not out on 39 from a total of 82 without loss.