Cow Corner

Monty puts a spring back in England’s step

Cow Corner

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Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann lead the celebrations

There are some players who contribute significantly more than the mere sum of their runs and/or wickets to their team: either in terms of tactical acumen, motivational gusto or positivity and spirit.

Monty Panesar offers a great deal to every team he plays in due to his unquenchable enthusiasm and ebullient character, and England were the beneficiaries of his influence on day one in Abu Dhabi.

He may have finished with just one wicket, but the 33 overs bowled by the 29-year-old enabled his captain Andrew Strauss to employ England's more attacking bowlers in roles more suitable to their respective talents.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of England's insipid showing in Dubai - with the exception of two dismal displays with the bat - was the lack of vim and vigour of the bowlers who appeared despondent and dejected in the face of adversity.

For too long, the likes of Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad have been overused and forced to graft through long spells with limited respite; the pair were instead able to bowl in effective bursts and finished with three wickets apiece.

As with most successful sides across many different sports, the role of the relatively unheralded but ever-willing worker is of great value within the context of a unit, allowing more talented and aggressive players to flourish.

Monty's boundless energy and unwavering positivity gave England a noticeable lift in the field, and his fellow spinner Graeme Swann finally had his wish: to bowl in tandem with a slow bowler of a contrasting approach.

Besides his charisma and effect on the team, Panesar dismissed the dangerous Mohammad Hafeez with a very fine delivery and would have had the key man Misbah-ul-Haq caught at slip had it not been for Jimmy Anderson uncharacteristically flooring a simple snaffle.

It is the first time England have played two spinners in a four-man attack since December 2003, and the first stint for Panesar since his heroic exploits with the bat in the Ashes Test of 2009 in Cardiff.

Toiling away on a pitch which resembles an artificial looking strip of white concrete, the second spinner proved a valuable addition for England after Strauss made the criminal mistake of calling incorrectly at the coin toss.

Chris Tremlett was sent home after he failed to shake off a persistent back problem and - delightful, charming man though he is - the difference between the gigantic paceman and Panesar in terms of personality could not be more stark.

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Monty goes wild after bowling Hafeez

To note that Panesar was only able to muster a solitary strike would be entirely missing the point.

Suddenly the pacemen looked refreshed and were used sparingly; suddenly the pressure was eased off Swann's shoulders; suddenly Strauss was able to set attacking fields and execute consistent plans.

Panesar provided control and built pressure from the least favoured end of the ground, wearing the batsmen down and rattling through a huge quantity of overs for a spinner on a first day track.

Even four belligerent sixes from the inspired Misbah did not sap away at Panesar's confidence or deter the spinner from performing his role and tossing the ball up inviting the loose drive.

Anderson and Broad were afforded the luxury of bowling relatively fresh when taking the second new ball after tea, and the improvement in their respective spells was apparent.

What is more, the number of overs delivered by Panesar will be noticeable on day two as the lighter than usual workloads of England's strike bowlers is sure to be apparent in terms of a swift recovery in testing conditions.

Panesar may not have finished with the most impressive figures or grabbed the plaudits upon his return to the Test side but, tellingly, his team-mates were delighted to have his vivacious character back among their ranks.

If there is one unique contribution the slow left-armer can make for England in this Test match following a dismal defeat in the first Test in Dubai, it is to put a spring back in the step of the world's number one side.


STAT OF THE DAY: It was the first time ever that Pakistan's top four batsmen have all been out bowled, with Panesar, Broad and Swann inflicting the damage. It could yet be the top five with Misbah unbeaten on 83.

TWEETS OF THE DAY: "It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that lunch was served slightly late in the Sheikh Zayed Stadium press box today. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those affected. Setting up helpline for victims of this senseless tragedy. Calls directed to hotel room service." (ECB_PR)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "The problem I see for England is that Jimmy Anderson has not been very effective on this wicket or the one in Dubai. He isn't getting the ball to swing and this detracts a great deal from his arsenal. We do need to strike with the new ball if we want to put pressure on Pakistan, but Anderson has not been able to make an impact." (David)

SHOTS OF THE DAY: Three England supporters attempt to work out what is going on a couple of miles away from their stand with the lone Armadillo stand providing an interesting view from afar. It was worth the trip though: you don't get this kind of atmosphere from your front room.

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Get those binoculars out...

Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali prepare for the start of the day's play by, er, stretching...?

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"Can you feel the stretch?"

David Gower takes his small Tigermoth aircraft for a ride around the stadium, flying dangerously low with Ian Botham clutching a bottle of plonk in the passenger's seat as Andrew Strauss and Misbah-ul-Haq watch on in bewilderment.

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Gower is at it again...

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