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Monty targets leading bowler label as pressure mounts on Swann

| 21.03.2012

“You don’t get a little label to hang around your shoulder saying Number One Spinner”. It was a typical light-hearted response from England’s resident joker Graeme Swann when asked this week about his rivalry with fellow spinner Monty Panesar.

Panesar again outshone Swann in the sub-continent in England’s latest contest – a comfortable innings win over a Sri Lanka Board XI. Panesar finished with figures of 6-69, while Swann registered just 3-80.

It comes after Panesar was one of the few England players to come out of a Test series hammering by Pakistan in Dubai with any credit, claiming 14 wickets in two games while Swann managed one less despite playing in all three tests.

And though England are again likely to persist with both spinners for the two-match Test series in Sri Lanka, they will almost certainly revert to four seamers when the West Indies and South Africa visit later this year.

And despite both attempting to play down any talk of a duel, the fact of the matter is that it all shapes up to make the Sri Lanka series a real contest between the two spinners vying for one place in the summer.

Swann may not literally have a label round his shoulder labelled ‘number one’, but it’s a tag he’s been figuratively wearing since ousting an under-performing Panesar from the international scene in May 2009.

He remains the favourite to finish on top in this series – he’s 9/4 to finish England’s top series wicket-taker – but Panesar at 5/2 could prove more tempting for anyone who has seen the two bowlers in action of late.

Monty has claimed a five-wicket haul in each of the four games he has played since his recall, while in the same period Swann twice went for more than 100 runs and took more than three wickets only once.

The Nottinghamshire bowler may claim to be relaxed about his pal Monty’s resurgence, but the truth is he might well be forced to hand over his label sooner than he’d like.



Richard Anderson