Spin bowler Monty Panesar gets England recall for Test series in UAE
The consistency and stability underpinning England’s rise to the top of the Test rankings was in evidence once again as they announced a 16-man squad for the winter series in the UAE against Pakistan, with only one change from the squad that retained the Ashes last winter in Australia.
Ravi Bopara is the only name in this squad who did not feature during the Ashes, picked as a replacement for the now-retired Paul Collingwood. As such there were no surprises and the only selection of any significance was that of Monty Panesar, given another chance to restart a career overtaken by Graeme Swann.
Panesar’s selection, the national selector Geoff Miller acknowledged, had been made bearing in mind conditions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “Monty’s selection comes off the back of a strong domestic season with Sussex and with the potentially spin-friendly conditions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in mind,” Miller said.
Spin played a significant role in Pakistan’s recent 1-0 Test triumph over Sri Lanka in the UAE, but a backroom staff as meticulous as England’s will have noted the regular and plentiful incursions made by Pakistan’s pacemen, Umar Gul and Junaid Khan. The pair picked up 26 wickets between them.
The big question ahead of the Tests is likely to be whether England play two spinners, something they have not needed to do during their rise. Panesar’s form – he took 69 wickets in the county season just gone – and past success against Pakistan, who traditionally falter against left-arm spinners, is likely to play a part in the thinking as well.
The return from injury of Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan – both effectively all-rounders on recent form – along with the form of their top order and Matt Prior, means if any side can afford to tweak their balance to suit the conditions it is England.
“We believe we’ve selected a very strong squad with a number of key players looking to return from injury including the likes of Stuart Broad, Eoin Morgan and Chris Tremlett,” Miller said. “All three have missed a significant period of cricket recently but continue to make excellent progress and will be looking forward to having a substantial impact during this series. To have three world-class players of their calibre returning to the squad is an enormous boost for the Test team.”
England will play two three-day warm-up matches before the first Test begins from January 17 in Dubai. The Tests will have the Decision Review System (DRS) in place, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced. The PCB had originally planned to use it only for the ODIs and T20s but have worked a plan with the sponsor to use HawkEye during the three Tests.
Pakistan’s preparations for that series, meanwhile, continue to gather momentum, after they dominated the first day of the first Test against Bangladesh in Chittagong.
After putting Bangladesh in, Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman took six wickets to bundle the hosts out for 135; by day’s end Pakistan’s openers, Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar, had taken them to 132 without loss.
Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Davies, Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett and Jonathan Trott