England Thrash Pakistan In Test Cricket Match
Meanwhile, over the road, at the home of Lancs.c.c the cricket match between England and Pakistan ended 2 days early after a convincing win by England.
England (461-9 dec) beat Pakistan (119 & 222) by an innings and 120 runs
After downward-spiralling in the first half of the summer, English cricket is on the way back up. In little more than 100 overs they twice dismissed Pakistan, with their daunting batting line-up, to win the second Test by an innings and 120 runs in well inside three days.
While England's batting has been solid all summer, thanks to the juniors as much as the seniors, three fresh ingredients have caused the turnaround. One is a captain who is in charge for every ball, another the revival of Steve Harmison as a strike-bowler, and the third the development of a match-winning spinner.
Harmison came first, setting the new tone and bouncing Pakistan out. He might have been a touch slower after tweaking his left side on Friday, but he still scared out the Pakistan tail when the ball had gone soft and finished not only with the man of the match award but also his first 10-wicket haul and his best Test figures.
The captaincy of Andrew Strauss came second, for a less natural leader would never have had a spinner on so early in the match. Together Harmison and Monty Panesar made the perfect combination on this pitch, out of which all the other bowlers in this Test derived little or nothing. The pair took 19 wickets for 169 - almost as good as Jim Laker 50 years ago - while everybody else laboured to take nine for 593.
It was a golden phase around Thursday lunchtime when the match was won and lost as Harmison bowled fast, often bringing the ball back into the right-hander, while the slow bowler spun the ball away. No wonder Pakistan lost eight wickets for 29 runs. What is a wonder is that so seldom in Test cricket has the combination of fast right and slow left been attempted before: John Snow and Derek Underwood made a rare previous pair.
Once Panesar had been wound up yesterday morning and set to bowl at the Warwick Road end (the one opposite to which Laker took 19 wickets for 90) until the conclusion, not too much captaincy was required. But it was still done capably and firmly, with attacking fields but without ostentation. To have a captain with his finger on the button all the time is crucial, and impossible when Andrew Flintoff is bowling. Strauss also took both slip catches that came his way and made his share of runs, to show that he does not think about the captaincy too much.
The one criticism that could be made of Strauss was that he did not have a few more overs at Pakistan on Friday evening when they were at their lowest ebb; South African cricket goes to show that not many matches are won if the possibility of defeat is completely eliminated first. But now he is no longer on probation, and has his first Test victory under his belt, he will grow in confidence.
Then came Panesar to tempt and turn and tease. His figures of five for 72 were the best of his eight-Test career, his match haul eight for 93. It may not be much of a title with Daniel Vettori and Ashley Giles on the treatment table and Harbhajan Singh wicketless save for one dream spell in the West Indies, but Panesar can claim to be the best finger-spinner currently in Test cricket.
After Harmison had bounced out Kamran Akmal with a throat-threatening ball, Panesar took the next five wickets, specialist batsmen all, as is his wont. Of his 25 Test wickets to date, 19 have been specialist batsmen, every one a Test century-maker, ranging from Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid to Kumar Sangakkara (twice) and Inzamam-ul-Haq.
After Lord's England had wondered if they would ever dismiss Mohammed Yousuf. Panesar did it twice in 28 balls, having him stumped second time around when Yousuf lunged too far forward at the first ball after lunch. In the morning Panesar had spun a ball out of the rough to have the left-hander Imran Farhat caught off bat and pad, but otherwise he turned off the true parts.
Panesar turned some balls as much as Pakistan's wrist-spinner had done. One spun so much that it went to slip; a couple more bounced so much they passed over the stumps. Giles can bore batsmen out, Panesar can bowl them out, and as such they would make a fine pairing in Sydney and any other ground which Australia prepare for Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill.
The bowler enjoyed an element of luck in Inzamam's wicket, but accidents will happen when a spinner bowls a long and accurate spell with men around the bat. Pakistan's captain - already bombed and bewildered by Harmison - played the ball down but up off his boot. Strauss must have realised his luck was turning when he saw somebody else out this way.
Younis Khan battled and ran busily between wickets but could find nobody to stay with him to form the long partnership Pakistan needed to avoid an innings defeat. The visiting vice-captain miscalculated when he shouldered arms to a straight ball. Not many people can claim to dismiss three of the world's top 10 batsmen in one spell, as Panesar did when removing Younis, Yousuf and Inzamam.
Faisal Iqbal has the reputation of being a fine player of spin, yet he too has been dismissed three times by Panesar. It was the classic left-armer's form of dismissal, turning and bouncing and taking the edge en route to slip. Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir, Alan Davidson and Richie Benaud, as well as Snow and Underwood, made famous pairs of fast and slow, but it is still surprising they have been so few.
Harmison returned to blast away the tail. It has been frustrating that he has not fulfilled himself for a year: if only he would do it just occasionally when a pitch does not stimulate him. The end was appropriate as Geraint Jones took the skier which the windy Abdul Razzaq put up, giving England's wicketkeeper a fifth catch in the innings in spite of the break in the tip of his right ring finger. If Jones is ruled out of the next Test, his replacement will have to follow a tough act who has begun to keep admirably.