Ricky Ponting on Monty Panesar

Australians have historically had some trouble against slow left armers, although more so on their own wickets then in Australia, but  Ricky Ponting rates Panesar highly. So much so that he’s already decided that he has to be attacked from the outset by Australia’s batsmen, in order to prevent him from settling into a rythym.

“I’ve watched it all pretty closely. He’s got this cult figure behind him, but more importantly for them, he’s actually doing the job for them on the field,” said Ponting, who first noticed Panesar during last year’s Ashes tour when he took Michael Clarke’s wicket in a county game.

“He didn’t look like he was scared to throw the ball up a little bit and actually try and get you out,” Ponting said.

“A lot of the Englishmen over the years have been a bit guilty of just firing the ball in a bit too fast, and you can see with him he uses the air a lot more. He’s got good, subtle changes of pace and, watching the other night, a really good arm ball as well. You could see from that that one day he might have the chance to play for England.

“He’s probably a more attacking bowler than Giles was, and a wicket-taking option for them, more so than Giles was. Giles … did what the team required of him, but it looks like this guy can actually do both — keep it reasonably tight if needed and when it starts to turn a bit more, he can bowl some pretty handy deliveries as well.

Ponting is looking to the lefthanders in the lineup to ‘get after’ Panesar.

“The left-handers especially, Justin and Matty, the way they generally play spin is to be fairly aggressive,” he said. “But at other times, we won’t be able to be. We’ll try to make some sort of impact on him early on — hopefully a positive one — and we don’t let him get on top of us.”

The Australians will study plenty of footage of Panesar between now and the Ashes, perhaps keeping in mind that New Zealand’s left-arm finger spinner Daniel Vettori has a fine record against them. Still, Australian coach John Buchanan said England’s first dilemma would be whether to play the new cult hero ahead of Giles, who is desperate to return from a hip injury. “He (Giles) has been one of the key players for an England side for a long period of time and someone that (coach Duncan) Fletcher has relied on quite a lot … so they will have some interesting decisions,” said Buchanan, who also has been impressed with Panesar.

“He’s actually a spinner, whereas I think Giles began as a medium pacer, then developed into a spin bowler. But Panesar is a craftsman, I think, a bit of an artist.”

Another key figure might well be Michael Hussey, who will undoubtedly anchor the middle order. However, Ponting is right to take this approach. Confidence is everything to a bowler, and especially spinners. If Australia can negate Panesar’s confidence, England will find their task much harder.

Kevin Pietersen’s secrets

There are some gems in this morning’s Telegraph, by Simon Briggs; my favourite of Kevin Pietersen and his uber-confidence:

So where exactly did Pietersen develop his supernatural sang-froid? Well, a story from the Southampton local leagues provides a clue. Last Wednesday evening, a social team named the Otters were taking an awful hammering from Trant, who batted first and smashed 186 from their allotted 16 overs. Then Bryan Pietersen, Kevin’s younger brother, ran in to bowl.

“He took two wickets with his first two balls,” said one stunned Otter, “and he was giving us plenty of stick. Then he had an lbw turned down – not surprisingly, as this is the sort of league where lbws are never given – and he went bananas. He was walking out to square leg with the umpire at the end of each over and explaining the rules. If the game had been competitive, I could have understood it, but we were 17 for four at the time.”

After the way cricket was played in the Pietersens’ back garden, South African sledging must have made Kevin feel right at home.

James Anderson still lacking confidence

James Anderson, England’s would-be new-ball bowler, is still struggling. He’s lost pace (he was genuinely quick – 92mph+ – only 18 months ago) and, crucially, lost his outswinger. England have put a lot of time and patience into him but I really feel he ought to have some time off, go to the Academy in a year’s time and progress from there. Ever since they fiddled with his action (albeit necessary modifications), he’s lost the magic which he displayed. Again today he conceded 50 runs in his 10 overs; against Zimbabwe, he ought to have conceded 40 at the very most, and taken at least 2 wickets.

He is too young and too talented to destroy yet – please, England, treat him carefully…