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Panesar calf strain opens door for Borthwick

England spinner Monty Panesar has strained his calf at training, strengthening the claim of Scott Borthwick to make his Test debut at the SCG.
Nanjing Night Net

Panesar will be assessed on Thursday, but it is believed England is set to call up 23-year-old Durham leg-spinner Borthwick as it looks to avoid a 5-0 whitewash.

It is not the first time England has looked to blood a young slow bowler in a dead-rubber Ashes Test, after Simon Kerrigan made his debut in the fifth Test at the Oval in August. The match ended in a draw but Kerrigan was slaughtered by the Australian batsmen – going for 53 runs from his only 48 balls in Test cricket.

Kerrigan hasn’t been seen since, with Borthwick instead called into the England squad following the retirement of Graeme Swann before the Melbourne Test.

Borthwick had a stint with Sydney first-grade side Northern Districts and was about to fly home when the call came.

Australian vice-captain Brad Haddin played alongside him for Northern Districts earlier in the summer and said Borthwick could expect a stern test.

”No doubt [we’ll get after him],” he said. ”It’d be an exciting time for him, but interesting to see how we approach him.”

Australia belted Swann in the first three Tests and Panesar was largely ignored in the Melbourne match – with captain Alastair Cook opting to bowl part-timer Joe Root ahead of him during Australia’s second innings.

But Borthwick said he welcomed the challenge.

”I’ll try and spin the ball and give it my best shot,” said Borthwick, who regards Shane Warne as his inspiration.

Borthwick is a born-and-bred Englishman, but that hasn’t stopped one Sydney family from claiming the budding leg-spinner as an ”honorary Australian”.

It might be a stretch for Australia to lay any dibs on the 23-year-old with the thick Geordie accent, but the local system can at least claim some credit for his rise.

As recently as the weekend before Christmas, Borthwick was plying his trade with Northern Districts in Sydney’s grade competition, before Swann’s shock retirement left the spinner on the verge of making his Test debut.

Borthwick is no stranger to Australia, having played a season in Adelaide’s grade scene and also spent time at the city’s Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy, where he received tutelage from Warne and Stuart MacGill.

Add that to the six first-grade games he has played with Northern Districts and that is enough for the club president to label him one of ours. ”I’d call him an honorary Australian and a decent Pom too,” Mike Langford said.

No matter how thorough Australia’s dossier is on Borthwick, few here would know him better than Langford, whose family has played host to him during his Sydney stint.

Borthwick was at the club’s Christmas party and due to fly home to prepare for the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka when he received a phone call from coach Andy Flower telling him to scrap those plans – he was needed with the senior squad rather than England’s development team.

Borthwick’s numbers with Northern Districts – 11 wickets at an average of 35 with the ball and 219 runs, including a century, at 31 with the bat – are respectable, but the Test arena is a massive leap.

”The standard in Sydney is very good, it’s very competitive,” Borthwick said. ”You come across some good players, especially when the state players are playing. I got what I needed to get out of it.”

Borthwick considers himself more a spinner than a batsman but with a first-class average of 31 in both disciplines he is clearly no slouch in either.

As a leggie on debut, he expects the Australian batsmen to attack him but is backing himself to spin the ball past them.

”When batters do come at you it gives you the chance to get some wickets,” he said.

”Being around the squad and on an Ashes tour really excites me and I’m thrilled to be here.”

With aap

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