Monty being Monty on eventful day for Panesar

JOHN PYE
Last updated 03:33 06/12/2013

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Monty Panesar took a wicket, dropped a catch and was at the centre of a social media furor even before he got onto the field in his first Ashes test since 2009.

Graeme Swann summed up his England teammate and fellow spinner's day succinctly: "Monty is Monty."

It started when Cricket Australia posted a photograph of four bearded men dressed up as Panesar lookalikes on its official Twitter account just before play at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday, then deleted it after widespread accusations of racism.

Under a caption reading "Will the real Monty Panesar please stand up," the men were pictured dressed in bright purple, red, green and yellow clothes and turbans.

England-born Panesar is a Sikh and wears a turban. Cricket Australia apologized for any offense caused and said "that was certainly not the intention. It has been removed." The photo was reportedly uploaded by an off-site contractor.

It came only days after a stadium announcer at an England tour match against a Cricket Australia Chairman's XI in Alice Springs was fired after using a mock Indian accent to let the crowd know when Panesar was entering the ground.

Notoriety is nothing new for the left-arm spinner, who has regularly swung between being a fan favorite and a pantomime villain throughout his 49-test career for either taking wickets or blundering in the field.

The 31-year-old Panesar was a mildly contentious selection in England's Ashes squad after being fired by his English county club in the summer when he was fined by police for urinating in public.

After England's 381-run defeat in the first test, and with a low-bouncing wicket in Adelaide creating conditions for two spinners to work in tandem, Panesar was selected to make his first test start since March.

He took 1-68 from 24 overs on day one, helping to restrict Australia to 273-5 on a pitch where batsmen should really have flourished.

But he also dropped a caught-and-bowled chance against George Bailey, who added 43 more runs in a vital 83-run fifth-wicket stand with Australia captain Michael Clarke, and then had a chance put down off his own bowling by Michael Carberry.

"He has always been a bit left-field and a bit different to everyone else and it's one of the reasons we love him so much," said Swann, who took 1-55. "We don't care what has happened in the last 12 months off the field.

"He is one of the boys and we embrace him as ever and we love seeing him do well."

Swann said Panesar bowled exceptionally well under so much pressure on his comeback to test cricket.

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"It's never easy coming back in to a team because obviously a lot of spotlight goes on you, a lot of expectation," Swann said. "He applied himself really well. It was a beauty to get his wicket as well, could have had two (wickets) by the end which is unfortunate for him.

"But he did the job that we wanted him to do and that is all Monty ever does, he just turns up and plays his game."

- AP

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