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from Left field:

Monty’s back but England Ashes hopes rest on Swann

CRICKET-ENGLAND/England's commitment to a four-man attack for their Ashes defence in Australia this year has directly influenced the decision to recall left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

Panesar and Surrey fast bowler Chris Tremlett, another recall, won the two extra bowling places at stake in the 16-man squad named at the Oval on Thursday.

England won the Ashes with a five-man attack in 2005 but, in the absence of a test class all-rounder after Andrew Flintoff's injury-induced retirement, have preferred this year to play an extra batsman.

* England will be heavily reliant on off-spinner Graeme Swann, the world's top-ranked spinner, in Australia. Swann, who gives the ball a prodigious tweak for a finger-spinner, has emerged as England's match-winner after he was called up at the end of 2008.

from Left field:

Should England bring back Harmison for Lord’s?

I am probably not the only one arriving at work today with fingers gnawed to the bone following England's nail-biting escape in the first Ashes test in a stunning finale in Cardiff, capping a memorable opening match to the series.

Despite near domination for five days, Australia failed to capitalise on early England wickets on the final day as the Three Lions' tail wagged heroically to secure a draw from the jaws of defeat against the old enemy.

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