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Aussies plot to bring Monty down to earth

Australia's batsmen say they plan to dominate English spin sensation in this year's Ashes series.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2006 16:49 IST

Australia's batsmen say they are planning to dominate English spin sensation Monty Panesar from the outset of this year's Ashes cricket series.

England coach Duncan Fletcher called Panesar the best finger spinner in the world after the left-armer claimed 32 wickets in his first 10 Test matches and was one of the stars of England's recent home Test series win over Pakistan.

Panesar, the first Sikh to play Test cricket for England, is generating considerable interest ahead of the November start of the Ashes and Australia's cricketers had enough respect to single him out in their pre-series talks.

The 24-year-old looms as one of England's trump cards as they prepare to defend the Ashes they seized off Australia in last year's unforgettable series in England.

"He's a terrific young bowler, a terrific young character and has an obvious passion for the game and he'll add a real flavour and touch to this series," Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist said.

"Like any new spinner we haven't seen before, we'll try to get on top of him before he gets on top of us but a lot of that will be dictated by the conditions and the match scenario."

Simon Katich, who is trying to bat his way back into the Australian Test team after being axed after the first Test against West Indies almost a year ago, rates Panesar highly.

"I faced him last year on the Ashes tour and I was impressed," left-hander Katich said at the Australian team camp.

"Monty is a bowler who tries to give you a bit of air. He is bowling genuine wicket-taking balls and knocking good players over."

Monty may have his critics as a batsman and an out-fielder, but he is highly rated by national team coach Fletcher, who masterminded England's 2-1 Ashes series win over Australia last year.

"As a finger spinner, there is probably no one to match him in world cricket at the moment - his control is very, very good," Fletcher said.

Panesar has a soul-mate in Australian leg-spinner Stuart MacGill, who has taken 198 wickets in 40 Tests despite playing in the same era as world record-breaking leg-spinning teammate Shane Warne.

MacGill believes Panesar's guile and variety will add plenty to the England bowling attack, which was dominated by its reverse-swinging pace attack in the last series.

"I think the more variations in personality, approach and background that you can incorporate into your team set-up, the more able you are to deal with a variety of situations," MacGill said last week.

"Monty's certainly got an approach that will help any team he's in. He'll definitely help the England side out just by being there.

"His approach is different to the other guys in the side and I think that's very valuable."

Gilchrist says he is hearing plenty about Panesar, who has become a favourite of the English cricketing public.

"Im not quite sure why he's got that cult following and I'm hearing everyone saying he'll develop a cult following here but I'm not sure who decides that," Gilchrist said.

The opening Ashes Test begins at Brisbane's Gabba ground on November 23.