Cricket: Panesar hopes Essex move will help chances for next Ashes series

LONDON (REUTERS) - Monty Panesar is hoping a change of county will help his chances of gaining selection for England's Ashes tour to Australia later in the year.

The 31-year-old left-arm spinner made his debut for Essex against his old club Northamptonshire on Tuesday, a day after being released by Sussex following his police fine for urinating in public.

Panesar has been left out of England's squad for the fifth and final Ashes Test against Australia that starts on Wednesday but is desperate to return as Graeme Swann's backup for the return series.

"This is a great opportunity for me to get a handful of games for Essex and it's something I'm excited about," he told Sky Sports.

"(The Ashes tour) is very much in the back of my mind. If I can focus on some good performances for Essex hopefully that will help me to get selection for the Ashes.

"I'm not thinking too far ahead. I just want to enjoy my cricket, put a smile back on my face and have a good time."

Panesar has featured in 48 Tests for England, taking 164 wickets, and played a key role during the series win in India at the end of last year.

He was in the squad for the third Test against Australia in Manchester, after which he was seen urinating in public near a nightclub in the early hours.

"I apologise for my behaviour," said Panesar. "I've been very lucky Essex have taken an interest.

"I can't comment (on the incident). I just want to move on. It's something me and Sussex have dealt with together."