Monty Panesar said he has loved being back playing for Northamptonshire as he took four wickets against Kent on his comeback from winter shoulder surgery, although he couldn’t prevent the match finishing in a draw after only 11 overs were possible on the final day at Wantage Road.
Kent began the final day 88-1 in their second innings, 14 runs behind, but morning rain meant no play was possible until 2:40pm. The visitors lost first innings double centurion Joe Denly for 36 before bad light and rain returned 11 overs later to end proceedings on 131-2, Daniel Bell-Drummond left unbeaten on 69.
It meant a fourth draw in five outings for both sides, each taking 11 points from a contest, whilst Northamptonshire have now lost 693 overs so far this season, over a third of the play possible in their five matches so far.
Whilst the match ended on a low-key note, it marked a triumphant return for Panesar, who rejoined Northamptonshire shortly before the start of the campaign following his release from Essex at the end of last summer.
Winter shoulder surgery had kept him out of the side for the opening month but in his first appearance for the county since 2009, he took 3-122 in the first innings, on a pitch offering little in the way of assistance for pace or spin, and having got through 59 overs in the match admitted he had surprised himself with the speed of his comeback.
“I didn’t expect to make a recovery this soon so things are positive. It’s just great to be going out and playing first class cricket. I’ve really enjoyed it and loved every minute of it,” Panesar said.
“It was good to get a lot of overs under my belt. It helped me to get the best out of my bowling and my rhythm feels really good.
“The track was obviously very placid, slow and low and it was just about sustaining the right pace for the pitch
“I kind of surprised myself bowling 40 overs in the first innings – which was quite a lot, but the shoulder kept up really well so things looked good.
“I played some club cricket, then Bedfordshire cricket so I kept on playing the cricket I required; then obviously the call came for the first team match here so that was great for me and it was good for the team, bowling on a very flat track.”
Northamptonshire had enjoyed the better of the play in the opening three days, with five batsmen making half centuries as they posted 498 to take a first innings lead of 102 following Kent’s 396, dominated by Denly’s unbeaten 206.
Head coach David Ripley was happy with the showing of his side. He said Panesar’s return was reward for the hard work he has put in over the past few months and praised the way he had bowled on what was a flat batting wicket.
“I think, apart from Day Two when Joe Denly got away from us a little bit, I thought we were very good and we were shading it,” Ripley said.
“Obviously it was a flat pitch and they hardly crumbled second time round but we played some better cricket and even though it’s another draw we feel we’ve had a better week.
“Monty’s had a good game, he’s had a good winter, he’s worked hard on his recovery, he’s worked hard in the group and he’s worked hard on his bowling.
“He’s got a little problem still throwing the ball but his bowling was good. He looked a treat in the last day and I imagine if we were trying to push home for a win, with men round the bat, he’d have looked a handful.
“You know Monty brings volume with him. He can bowl lots of overs, you can rotate your seamers so it was nice to see him back.
“There’s plenty more Championship matches left, if he can maintain that form I’m sure he’ll play some more cricket.”