England levelled the four-match Test Series at Old Trafford with a crushing victory over Pakistan. The 330-run win was their second biggest over the tourists in the two nations cricketing history.
Pakistan’s batsmen were woeful against an accurate and relentless seam attack, driving them to make poor shot selection when it came to the relief of Moeen’s spin. His five wickets were costly though, conceding five runs an over during the match as a whole.
James Anderson led England’s attack splendidly, bowling a repetitiously good line and length. In his post-match comments, former England captain Bob Willis compared the Lancastrian to Australia’s Glenn McGrath. The Pakistan batsmen won’t disagree, becoming pinned down with Anderson’s accuracy.
Colleagues Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad both followed suit. Woakes wicket haul was greater but Broad’s contribution to Pakistan’s confusion should not be overlooked.
But the true inspiration came from Joe Root. A buccaneering 254 in the first innings was followed by an unbeaten 71 in the second. Two stylish innings from the Yorkshireman underlined his importance to the side. Having a strong number three allows England to build on the opening partnership and quells the over-reliance on the top of the order.
And England captain, Alistair Cook’s return to form could hardly be timelier. Having endured a spell where his batting was rightly criticised for its numbing quality, the inclusion of the free-scoring Root has lessened the pressure on the opener, allowing his instinctive shot selection to shine through. The continual rise in his run-rate is a testament to the strength of his character.
The victory came at a price; all-rounder Ben Stokes picked up a calf injury which is likely to see him miss the remainder of the summer. It’s one of two changes the selectors are expected to make when they announce the squad for the third test at Edgbaston. That’s if they don’t simply reduce the fourteen man squad by one player.
Including a second spin bowler has a two-fold benefit to England’s chances. Firstly, it keeps pressure on Moeen Ali’s place in the side, preventing any sense of complacency but also begins preparation for the winter tour of India and Bangladesh.
Adil Rashid was in the side until the coin toss at Old Trafford when England decided to go with a seam attack. His has been in fine form this summer and Trevor Bayliss is keen to give the Yorkshire bowler more test experience.
The second is to include another seam bowler but there are few options. Jake Ball did well at Lord’s and will probably get the nod over Steven Finn who is shorn of confidence and form.
And what of Pakistan?
If England were embarrassed by defeat in the first test, Pakistan were humiliated at Old Trafford. The batting line-up was in disarray with terrible shot selection throughout. Their bowlers fared little better as England dominated from start to finish with only Amir and Rahat producing any genuine economy from their spells.
The tourists pride has been wounded but it remains to be seen whether their spirit was entirely crushed. The toss may prove the most vital aspect of the match with Alistair Cook hoping to put early pressure on the Pakistan batsmen.