Panesar would have been better pick

I think England have missed a trick by not playing Monty Panesar in this final Ashes Test.

The pitch at The Oval is already starting to take some turn, and it is very dry. Clearly, as the match goes on, spin is going to be an ever more viable option for both sides.

I know why England have opted to go with four seamers, rather than two spinners, in their five-man attack. Andrew Flintoff might still need to be protected a little in terms of the number of overs he bowls, even after a rest through missing the Headingley Test, and England also like to have Stuart Broad batting at eight.

But I would have picked Panesar ahead of Graeme Swann because Monty is simply a better spinner.

I know that Swann does offer England a bit more in the field and with the bat, and he is an effervescent character, but the fact is that he has underachieved significantly with the ball during this series.

He took four wickets in Australia’s second innings at Lord’s, but that was with the benefit of a 500-run lead, and then there was that ball at Edgbaston to bowl Ricky Ponting. But, apart from that, he has been very disappointing and I think Panesar would have been the better bet.

England did the right thing to bat first, though, after Andrew Strauss had won the toss, even though it did get very overcast for a while in the early part of the England first innings.

At 114 for 1, and then 176 for 2, England were in a great position but Australia kept pegging away and again Peter Siddle impressed with his ability to keep running in hard.

Jonathan Trott was unfortunate in the manner of his dismissal and it is hard to criticise Ian Bell too much for topscoring with 72 after stepping up to the No. 3 position but the harsh reality is that Bell should have gone on to get 100 – and probably 150. That is what the really top-class players do and once again has got in but failed to go on to the big score.

Strauss will be bitterly disappointed himself not to go on from 55 after doing all the hard work, but he did get a decent ball from Hilfenhaus. Too many of the other England top order batsmen, though, were guilty of soft dismissals and lazy strokes.

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