DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Recalled England spinner Monty Panesar described being selected to play Pakistan in his first test since the 2009 Ashes series after a gap of 29 matches as like making his international debut all over again.
The left-arm finger spinner finished with 1-91 off 33 overs as Pakistan totalled 256-7 on Wednesday led by Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s unbeaten 83 after the opening day of the second test.
“I was a bit nervous,” Panesar said. “Obviously, I found out this morning and yeah I was excited a bit. It was kind of like making my second debut.
“Obviously, bowling that many overs is something I have done for Sussex during the last year.”
Panesar was left out of the team that lost the first test by 10 wickets at Dubai last week despite impressing in the warmup match against PCB XI.
Having been kept waiting until Wednesday morning to learn of his selection, Panesar said he enjoyed bowling in tandem with offspinner Graeme Swann, who picked up 3-52, on a pitch at Sheikh Zayed Stadium that offered turn because of some moisture.
“I thought I will have to do a holding job on this first-day wicket but I was surprised with the turn I got,” Panesar said. “I thought me and Swanny were pretty much involved in the game.”
Misbah was dropped on 30 by James Anderson while fielding in a lone slip position off Panesar’s bowling. The Pakistan captain hoisted Panesar for four sixes over long on, the last two coming in the final over of the day.
Panesar provided England with the breakthrough when he bowled opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez on 31 with a beautifully delivered arm ball — one delivery after he dropped the same batsman off his own bowling.
Misbah and Asad Shafiq (58) helped Pakistan recover from 103-4 with a century stand, and Panesar felt the pitch was easier to bat on after lunch after drying out and with the ball getting older.
“There wasn’t as much grip as there was in the morning,” he said.
England went into a test with two specialist spinners for the first time since 2003, a move Panesar said is understandable because of the turn-friendly conditions in the Middle East.
“Conditions out here in the subcontinent definitely caters to spinners because it also allows the seamers to get some respite,” he said. “And it means both can bowl together and create some good pressure.”
Panesar said former Pakistan test cricketer Mushtaq Ahmed, who is England’s bowling coach, had encouraged him while he was out of the test team.
“He kept making me believe that I can get in,” Panesar said. “He is not more about bowling magic balls but bowling a good set of overs continuously, and that is what kind of bring wickets.”
Despite England dropping three catches, Panesar said his team is happy with its overall performance on the first day.
“At the start of the day if we had said we will have taken seven wickets, we will take it on this sort of pitch on the first day,” he said. “Obviously some chances are going to be taken and some chances will get dropped, but overall I think we are at peace for the day.”