Thoughts: Eng v Pak, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 1st day

Too knackered to offer anything of substance. However, don’t underestimate the importance of yesterday’s performance by England. The draw at Lord’s was deserved for both teams. Yesterday, England raised their game by several notches – largely thanks to Steve Harmison who bowled a quite magnificent spell. I can’t help but feel irritated, though, that our leading fast bowler can’t produce such spells on a more regular basis. He is the most natural, ridiculously gifted fast bowler England has had since…I don’t know when. He was unplayable yesterday, and even made Lord’s double centurion Mohammad Yousuf look a bit silly…jumping around like a cat on hot coals.

Well played England. Well captained Andrew Strauss. It might be a 24-hour bright-spot quickly forgotten by this time tomorrow but, at the very least, there was an intent shown by the bowlers, and latterly England’s batsmen, which vindicated Strauss’s rallying cry yesterday in which he longed for his side to rekindle the passion shown last summer.

I feel it’s important not to forget Monty Panesar’s role yesterday either. He bowled brilliantly. As a notable cricket journalist commented to me this evening, he is still “only” a left-arm spinner and thus not a matchwinner. I see more in Panesar than I saw in Phil Tufnell (incidentally Strauss, off the record, believes Tuffers was the greatest spinner he ever faced…in terms of raw natural ability). He is more attacking than Daniel Vettori, who perhaps receives more credit than he is due but who nevertheless holds the mantle of the world’s best left-arm-spinner!

Panesar has something special. Few young bowlers have an action so well oiled and natural, so lacking in awkwardness. It’s fluid and fluent, so natural and so untouched by the evil bowling coaches. This fact alone has already helped him in his brief career; instead, unlike Liam Plunkett, of worrying about how the ball is “coming out”, he simply concentrates on his line. Natch, this is how all the best bowlers perform, but it’s not necessarily an art you are born with. It is, though, for Panesar (seemingly).

When he bowls in the second innings he might get carted for 100 from 18 overs and you’ll all call me a twat. But more likely is that he’ll contain Pakistan and out-think some of the best players of spin. Not bad for a left-armer from Luton.