Another good day for England with a performance bordering on excellent – and certainly a disappointing and dismal one for Pakistan. Despite their extra-long tail, which is almost unheard of in these days of multi-dimensional cricketers and bowlers “that can bat a bit,” few expected them to capitulate as feebly as they did.
Mind you, it was due to some brilliant bowling from England. Each wicket-taking delivery would, I think, have accounted for better batsmen than the Pakistani tail. First to go was Sami, tempted into a swish outside off in Matthew Hoggard’s first over. Hoggard (perhaps unusually for him) was right on the money from ball one, in ideal dewy conditions, moving the ball away almost at will.
Andrew Flintoff, opening the bowling with Hoggard, accounted for Inzamam who remained England’s only thorn at the start of the day; but even he could only add a handful of runs to his overnight score. Again, Flintoff’s delivery was inch-perfect, squaring up Inzy and presenting Andrew Strauss with a sharp but undroppable chance at second slip, a position he is making his own. This was quality bowling, and England had suddenly seized the advantage.
It was all over very quickly. Pakistan had succumbed quickly and feebly, losing 5 for 30 in two fewer balls than 20 overs. Agony for the home side and, curiously, a “matter-of-fact” response from the visitors who appear almost to expect this kind of performance. Whether it’s due to years of my own agony in watching England capitulate, much like Pakistan had done today, or whatever – I can’t imagine the day where I expect England to perform like they did today.
The batting, then, was dominant, solid and few would have realised England’s woeful pre-Test form had been such a concern. Marcus Trescothick, who was one of the few afforded a run of form before this game, simply played a blinder; his 13th Test hundred was played with class, confidence and control throughout. Strauss was undone by pace and swing by Sami – who looks a prospect, but shouldn’t he be more than simply a potentially good bowler by now? – and Collingwood relit the doubts I have of his defensive technique, but it was otherwise a great batting display. Not least, indeed, by Ian Bell who was arguably the player under the most amount of pressure. His 71 (?) was solid, reliable and very unflashy – just the sort he needed, and I bet he’s secretly hoping his usual captain buggers off home to rest his knee…
10/10 England. Probably 2 for Pakistan.