Monty Panesar's exclusive diary January 2, 2007

I've never shaved, so I'm reaping the rewards now

ESPNcricinfo staff
Monty Panesar, in his exclusive diary for Cricinfo, reflects on watching Warne at close hand and being Beard of the Year

To beard or not to beard? That was never the question - Panesar hasn't shaved for eight years © Getty Images

There was yet more disappointment for us this week after we lost the fourth Test, but even so, our spirits are still quite high. Hopefully come the fifth Test we'll be all up for it, because we definitely want to perform well. For me, Melbourne was a bit of a personal comedown after taking eight at the WACA. No wickets for me on this occasion, though you have to give credit to the Australian batsmen, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden. They batted well and thought on their feet while they were out there.

It was definitely more of a seamer's wicket here than at Perth, and that affected my strategy. I didn't start my spell with as many close fielders as had gone on that occasion, but that's because we decided it was important to have a bit of protection, especially against such a powerful batsman as Symonds. We were just trying something different but they counteracted, so credit to the Aussies.

I had one or two appeals turned down which must have been pretty close, but that just happens sometimes. Bowlers always tend to think something is out, but at the end of the day the umpires know best, and sometimes you just have to accept the decision and keep plodding away. Even though it wasn't a successful match, it was an amazing atmosphere with nearly 100,000 people in the stadium each day. Just being out there playing in all the noise, and in front of the Barmy Army, was a special feeling.

I guess there was a bit of a personal high for me in the match. I got asked to bat at No. 10 for the first time in Tests. I'm working my way up that batting order, but I've just got to keep getting scores and building on the opportunity. Hopefully I'll pick up a few not-outs and a few runs, and keep pushing and pushing further up the order.

Matthew Hoggard got bumped down from No. 9 to take my place at 11, but he wasn't at all miffed. He's a great guy to have in the team, a really nice bloke, and he didn't say much to me about it. I guess he'll be keeping the nightwatchman role for the time being though. He's done it really well for so many years. But obviously, if the opportunity does arrive - and it'll be up to the coach and the captain - I'll be keen to have a go.

There is a bit of lighthearted banter between the tailenders when it comes to batting. We all have a bit of a laugh and a joke about who's going to get the most runs or face the most balls, and we're always trying to beat each other to the highest score. But really we're all trying to help each other out in the middle. When we are out there we are batting together as a team and trying to get the total as far as we can.

I was privileged to witness another Man of the Match performance from Shane Warne, which was just great from a spinner's point of view. I love watching him going about his art - he's got 700 Test wickets which is an amazing achievement. It's fascinating to look at his different field settings on different wickets and to different types of batsmen, and he knows his angles so well. He just tries to play around with different types of spin on the ball and makes batsmen play with different angles of the bat.

It's a great experience just to watch him and to see what he's doing. It would be nice if I could quickly learn to do the stuff he does, but in reality it'll take quite a while. I've been watching him on TV since I was 12 or 13, so to see him close up is very special. One or two people have suggested he was imitating my celebrations when he went hurtling around the pitch after dismissing Andrew Strauss, but I don't know about that. He's got 700 wickets, so he's entitled to celebrate the way he wants.

I picked up one bizarre award this week - apparently, I'm Beard of the Year 2006, which I found out about a couple of days ago. I guess I wasn't too much aware of it, but it's nice to get an award for something I've kept since I was 16! Fidel Castro, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Bill Frindall were also on the shortlist, so they are strong candidates - there are lots of people with great beards out there. I guess I've never shaved, so I'm reaping the rewards now.

I've had some friends and family in town over the festive period, so it's been nice to spend time with them as well as my team-mates. Of course, we were disappointed not to win the fourth Test, but we're back to training now and preparing for the final test. There's still lots of character in this team. We've had good individual performances throughout, so hopefully we can gel as a unit and put on a good performance at Sydney.

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