Panesar best keeps selectors alert
Sussex 161 for 6 (Hussain 2-27) trail Somerset 247 (Trescothick 123, Panesar 7-60) by 86 runs
It was quite apparent who James Whitaker, the England selector, had come to watch at Taunton. In days gone by this would, of course, have been Marcus Trescothick, who completed the 50th first-class century of his career following the lengthy rain stoppage on Tuesday. Sadly, he is no longer an international option. Monty Panesar, however, can only have enhanced his chances of playing Test cricket again through taking career-best figures of 7 for 60.
Indeed, Whitaker's first question upon arrival at the County Ground was to ask how "the Sultan" was bowling. The answer was pretty well, although Trescothick, not altogether surprisingly, mastered him on a pitch that is rather different from the flat surfaces Phil Frost used to prepare here. There was turn for Panesar on the first morning, more now and doubtless there will be plenty come the final day.
Panesar snaffled Jos Buttler, who appeared to be in England T20 mode when he attempted to clear deep mid off without being to the pitch of the ball; Alex Barrow, picked up at short leg; Peter Trego, whose leg stump was knocked out by a quicker one that scuttled through; Saj Mahmood, also taken at short leg; and Steve Kirby, edging to the wicketkeeper. What with Abdur Rehman going leg-before to Chris Nash, Somerset had lost their last five wickets for just six runs.
Certainly Panesar pushed the ball through, but it is not possible to quibble with such figures. He knows that Danny Briggs, his fellow left arm spinner and a member of England's World Twenty20 squad, is uppermost in the selectors' thoughts at present and to excel like this in front of Whitaker was timely indeed. He does not at present hold a full central contract and neither could he account for Trescothick, who gained the 11 runs he required to move to a century in the morning through three characteristic shots: a cover drive, barely moving his feet, a dab to third man (twice) and a leg glance to the boundary.
There were 18 fours in this century, scored off 167 balls, and he had made 123 in all when he looked, initially, to steer Nash to third man, changed his mind too late and edged to Ben Brown. "I didn't sleep very well, I was a bit nervous," Trescothick said. "At this stage of my career I am 25 or 30 centuries short of what I should have. It puts into context the achievements of Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash." He praised Panesar for being "very consistent" and said he expects this pitch to break up.
When Sussex batted, it was without much conviction. Nash was the exception, batting aggressively until he flicked Gemaal Hussain to short midwicket, where Trescothick had shrewdly placed a catcher. In the following over Peter Trego gained sufficient movement away from the left handed Ed Joyce to have him caught behind. The Sussex captain, incidentally, had been the one person to clap his opposite number when the milestone century was reached: Panesar and all thought Trescothick was caught at short leg when on 60.
The middle order of Murray Goodwin, who is out of touch, Mike Yardy and Luke Wells all went in spite of having played themselves in. Rehman, bowling like Panesar from the Pavilion End, did not achieve the same turn or bite, yet he took two wickets. Luke Wright was leg-before to Hussain shortly before the close, not appreciating the verdict of umpire Rob Bailey one little bit. This is a close contest, for sure.