For England, this was close to a perfect game. To win by an innings and 120 runs is an excellent performance; to accomplish it in less than three days is a remarkable display against Pakistan, the team who rank second in the world.
As they walked jauntily off the ground, two bowlers and two batsmen carried the souvenir stumps that they will come to treasure. Stephen Harmison, at 27 the veteran among the quartet, had taken more than 10 wickets in a Test for the first time in his career. (The figures were 11 for 76, including 5 for 56 yesterday as he cleaned up Pakistan's tail.)
Monty Panesar, whose place was thought to be in doubt before this match, confirmed his position as England's most promising spin bowler for a generation with 5 for 72 yesterday, and match figures of 8 for 91. By taking 19 wickets between them, they had, incidentally, taken exactly the same number as Jim Laker managed all on his own in an Ashes game precisely 50 years ago.
A hostile fast bowler and a clever spin bowler had contributed pretty equally to an England victory that had been set up by excellent hundreds by two immensely promising young players, Alastair Cook, aged 21, and Ian Bell, who is 24, the same age as Panesar.
All three are in the England team because of illness or injury to established players. The Manchester Test might mark the formation of an England team who will compete at the highest level in five years' time.
Yet England's prospects were distinctly lacking promise only three days ago. When the Test began, the gloom created by Andrew Flintoff's injury and subsequent operation was magnified by a performance at Lord's which had been fearful of the risk required to push for victory.
The limp captaincy of Andrew Strauss had been much commented on. Moreover, the idea that Panesar might be dropped in favour of James Dalrymple seemed bizarre, and thankfully did not happen. The fact that it was discussed did not inspire confidence in the judgement of England's management.
Three days later, Strauss is being congratulated on his attacking fields and shrewd bowling changes on a wicket that helped pace and spin. The controversy over Panesar must surely be ended, and the morale of the team will be restored. Confidence has been boosted and, all of a sudden, Duncan Fletcher looks a strong coach again. "We didn't have the killer punch at Lord's. We delivered it here," said Strauss. The Manchester Test has been a grand experience.
Rain was forecast but the fitness of Harmison and Geraint Jones were the only clouds over Old Trafford at the start of play. Harmison had gone off holding his side, evidently in pain late on Friday, and Jones had taken two fearsome blows which caused a hair-line fracture on the ring finger of his right hand. But England's physio, Kirk Russell, was confident that they would survive the day.
The pair of them justified Russell's confidence in Harmison's second over when a sharply rising ball clipped Kamran Akmal's gloves and Jones took a competent catch diving to his right. They were all right for the time being, though these injuries can turn out worse than they looked in the heat of a Test.
Harmison bullied little Imran Farhat into playing and missing, and the only surprise was that he survived. The pressure applied by Strauss was intense, with only one man in front of the bat at short extra cover. But it was Panesar who got his wicket, caught by Bell at short leg for 34. The second wicket fell at 60. The problem of Pakistan's openers will not go away.
Until this Manchester Test, it had not mattered very much because Pakistan's middle-order batsmen were in such elegant and overpowering form. Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq were joined at Old Trafford by Younis Khan, the third of these thrilling musketeers, who had been injured at Lord's. Inzamam got a duck the first innings after eight successive fifties against England, and the other two contributed only 82 of Pakistan's meagre 119 in the first innings.
At lunch Pakistan were 101 for 2, with Younis and Yousuf not out. A Pakistan recovery was still conceivable. If the trio returned to top form, it was not impossible that they would tame a pitch that was helping the pace bowlers with good bounce and carry through, and spin, especially at the Stretford End, where the wide cracks in the hard surface were to be found.
Panesar had come on to bowl at 11.50. He is already treated like a mascot by the crowds at Test grounds. He trots in to bowl, removes his white, wide-brimmed hat to reveal the two tails of his black, bandana-like headgear known as a pagdi. Before lunch, he had turned the ball prodigiously. Twice Jones missed balls that turned so sharply as to be unstoppable. Normally, the glovework was skilfully done.
First ball after lunch, Younis stretched forward and was judged by the third umpire to have just been out of his crease. Another TV replay caused the downfall of Inzamam, who was caught off bat and boot. Both fell to Panesar, who then removed the third of the musketeers when Younis did not play a stroke at a ball that straightened.
Younis was the first Pakistani to score a fifty in the game, and with five gone for 161, England were unstoppable, even by the rain, which did begin to fall lightly in mid-afternoon, and stole 25 minutes from the day's play.
The tail was consumed by Harmison with another fine display of hostile bowling. Late in the day he took 3 for 4 in 15 balls. Jones took the catches off the edges and ended with five victims, four of them caught and one stumped.
The two men who suffered on Friday evening returned in such pomp as to suggest that the appearance of their injuries was a subtle manoeuvre to lull the Pakistanis into thinking they might make a game of it. As we know now, they never had a hope.
SECOND TEST SCOREBOARD
Pakistan won toss
Pakistan - First Innings 119
(S J Harmison 6-19)
England - First Innings 461-9 dec
(A N Cook 127, I R Bell 106no)
Pakistan - Second Innings
ÝKamran Akmal c Jones b Harmison 4
(Could only glove nasty lifter to wicketkeeper; 35 min, 28 balls)
Imran Farhat c Bell b Panesar 34
(Inside edge on to pad and simple catch for short leg; 98 min, 66 balls, 4 fours)
Younis Khan lbw Panesar 62
(Inexplicably padded up to arm ball; 173 min, 119 balls, 8 fours)
Mohammad Yousuf st Jones b Panesar (TV replay) 15
(Foot caught on line after being beaten pushing forward; 43 min, 32 balls, 2 fours)
*Inzamam-ul-Haq c Cook b Panesar (TV replay) 13
(Defensive shot hit boot and bobbed up to silly point; 18 min, 19 balls, 1 four)
Faisal Iqbal c Trescothick b Panesar 29
(Classic left-arm spinner's dismissal - edged turning ball to slip; 54 balls, 2 fours, 1 six)
Abdul Razzaq c Jones b Harmison 13
(Beaten for pace, big top edge off attempted pull; 73 min, 41 balls, 2 fours)
Shahid Afridi c Strauss b Harmison 17
(Ambitious drive on the up edged to second slip; 19 min, 17 balls, 2 fours, 1 six)
Mohammad Sami c Jones b Harmison 0
(Wild slog leads to thin edge behind; 2 min, 2 balls)
Umar Gul c Jones b Harmison 13
(Leg-side strangle as ball appeared to brush gloves; 15 min, 16 balls, 1 four, 1 six)
Danish Kaneria not out 4
(12 min, 13 balls, 1 four)
Extras (b4 lb4 w6 nb4) 18
Total (all out, 283 min, 67.1 overs) 222
Fall: 1-21 (Kamran Akmal), 2-60 (Imran Farhat), 3-101 (Mohammad Yousuf), 4-117 (Inzamam-ul-Haq), 5-161 (Younis Khan), 6-174 (Faisal Iqbal), 7-194 (Shahid Afridi), 8-194 (Mohammad Sami), 9-208 (Umar Gul), 10-222 (Abdul Razzaq).
Bowling: Hoggard 14-2-52-0 (nb3 w2) (7-0-25-0 4-1-20-0 3-1-7-0), Harmison 18.1-3-57-5 (w4) (1-0-2-0 7-2-10-1 5-0-25-0 5.1-1-20-4), Mahmood 6-1-22-0 (nb 1) (1-1-0-0 3-0-18-0 2-0-4-0), Panesar 27-4-72-5, Pietersen 2-0-11-0 (one spell each).
Progress, third day: Third day: 50 in 95 min, 19.5 overs. 100 in 139 min, 31.3 overs. Lunch 101-2 (Younis Khan 34, Mohammad Yousuf 15) 32 overs. 150 in 191 min, 44.2 overs. Rain stopped play 3.03-3.49pm 167-5 (Faisal Iqbal 23, Abdul Razzaq 1) 52.1 overs. Early tea taken. 200 in 265 min, 62.1 overs. Innings closed 4.48pm.
Younis Khan 50: 140 min, 91 balls, 6 fours.
England won by an innings and 120 runs
Man of the Match: S J Harmison (Eng).
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and S J A Taufel (Aus).
Third Umpire: I J Gould (Eng). Match referee: R S Madugalle (SL).
Third Test: 4-8 August, Headingley; Fourth Test: 17-21 August, The Oval.Reuse content