Michael Vaughan's inspirational captaincy will undoubtedly be missed during this winter's Ashes, but another commanding batting display from Alastair Cook and Ian Bell implied that England will not spend their time in Australia yearning for his runs. The duet batted beautifully on another scorching Manchester day, allowing England to declare their first innings on 461 for 9, a total that should allow them to go on and win the second Test against Pakistan.
In reply, and facing a first innings deficit of 342, Pakistan had reached 12 without loss in the four remaining overs. The failure to take a wicket would not have bothered England too much, but the sight of Stephen Harmison being escorted from the pitch by the physiotherapist after one over would.
Harmison pulled up after his first ball, which went straight to Andrew Strauss at second slip, holding his side. Strauss went to talk with him as he stretched the affected area making his way back to his mark. After a brief conversation with his captain, and further stretching, Harmison completed an unconvincing over and retired to fine-leg.
Stopping a big, stroppy fast bowler doing anything is a challenge but Harmison ought not have finished the over. It would have made more sense for him to hand the ball to his captain and walk off for treatment, rather than risking further damage.
Cook scored his third and probably finest Test hundred but it was Bell's century, his fourth for England, that captivated the capacity crowd. Bell would not have played in this Test but for the recurrence of Andrew Flintoff's ankle injury, and the manner in which he went about scoring runs suggested he was trying to imitate the local hero.
Bell looked in wonderful touch from the moment he took guard, plundering the Pakistan bowlers to every corner of the ground. His footwork was purposeful and he went for his shots freely, a game-plan he has not always been able to employ during his 16 Test career.
Bell's England record prior to this Test - 1,040 runs at an average of 43.33 - is pretty good yet there have been times when he has looked fretful and slightly out of place. As with a many child prodigies, Bell is very intense about his cricket, and attempting to live up to the expectations of those around him will have brought its own pressures.
But yesterday's hundred, completed when he cut Shahid Afridi to the backward point boundary, was that of a man who looked at ease with himself and his surroundings. Bell's inclination to flirt with balls outside his off-stump has made him look vulnerable against high-class bowling but he looked composed and in control as he sought runs with England's lower order. Indeed, the match situation probably helped his situation because it allowed him to go for his shots without fear of recrimination.
Cook's hundred, his third in seven Tests, was slightly less eye-catching but it was of equal importance. The Essex opener took the best overs out of Pakistan's attack and made it easier for Bell in the afternoon.
The prospect of watching Kevin Pietersen created an expectant air around Old Trafford, but on this occasion England's "entertainer" did no more than tantalise those who had taken early possession of their seats. It would be easy to criticise Pietersen for the manner of his dismissal, loosely driving at a wide half-volley from Umar Gul, but it would be wrong. This is the way he plays and England supporters will have to accept that memorable days will be interspersed with disappointing ones.
The loss of Pietersen let the air out of England's tyres and the team spent the next hour consolidating. England's approach changed after the drinks interval as Cook and Collingwood looked to be positive. Collingwood twice drove Danish Kaneria back over his head for six, and Cook moved from 85 to 97 in an Abdul Razzaq over.
Cook found it far harder to score his next three runs but he got there when a thick outside edge off Shahid Afridi ran away to the third man boundary for two. On completing his second run Cook calmly took off his helmet, raised both arms in the air, and acknowledged the warm applause of the capacity crowd.
The way he celebrated highlighted just why he has made a remarkable start to his Test career. It will not have surprised Cook to reach three figures. That, after all, is what he there to do. There is no reason to get carried away when it happens.
Very little has ruffled Cook during his Test career to date. At times his batting has lacked elegance but he simply battles on. It is an approach that suggests he has been playing Test cricket for years.
For Cook and Collingwood the moment completed a happy hat-trick. The pair were together at the crease when Cook struck a maiden Test hundred on his debut in Nagpur, and he was there again a fortnight ago at Lord's when he posted 105. So it came as no surprise to see the "Durham Terrier" scampering up and down the turf yesterday as Cook moved to three figures.
On the previous two occasions Collingwood has posted hundreds himself but, after pulling Gul to square leg on 48, it seems highly unlikely he will complete the sequence here. Cook quickly followed when, on 127, he missed a nip-backer from the persevering Gul and was trapped in front.
Bell, who scored a hundred at Lord's too, received only brief support from Geraint Jones who, after being struck a painful blow on the hand, was trapped plum in front by Mohammad Sami. England's lower order had fun with Bell and Harmison middled a couple of lusty blows - he may have strained his side doing so - to complete another fine day for England.
Scoreboard from Old Trafford
Second npower Test
England v Pakistan
(Old Trafford; second day of five)
Pakistan won toss
England - First Innings
(Overnight: 168 for 2)
A N Cook lbw b Umar Gul 127
340min, 260 balls, 18 fours
K P Pietersen c Imran Farhat b Umar Gul 38
84min, 51 balls, 5 fours
P D Collingwood c Mohammad Sami b Umar Gul 48
148min, 128 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes
I R Bell not out 106
199min, 135 balls, 13 fours, 1 six
ÝG O Jones lbw b Mohammad Sami 8
19min, 9 balls, 1 six
S I Mahmood c and b Abdul Razzaq 12
46min, 29 balls, 2 fours
M J Hoggard lbw b Shahid Afridi 6
42min, 30 balls, 1 four
S J Harmison c Kamran Akmal b Danish Kaneria 26
58min, 50 balls, 4 fours
M S Panesar not out 3
7min, 7 balls
Extras (b9, lb10, w7, nb14) 40
Total (for 9 dec, 553min, 133 overs) 461
Fall: 1-30 (Trescothick), 2-95 (Strauss), 3-169 (Pietersen), 4-288 (Collingwood), 5-304 (Cook), 6-321 (Jones), 7-357 (Mahmood), 8-384 (Hoggard), 9-457 (Harmison).
Bowling: Mohammad Sami 28-5-92-2 (w1) (6-1-16-1; 7-1-20-0; 5-2-11-0; 7-1-31-1; 3-0-14-0); Umar Gul 28-2-96-3 (nb6, w1) (4-0-12-0; 5-1-27-0; 7-0-16-1; 7-0-22-2; 5-1-19-0); Abdul Razzaq 19-4-72-2 (nb5, w5) (2-0-5-0; 6-2-18-1; 1-0-3-0; 5-1-23-0; 5-1-23-1); Danish Kaneria 37-8-106-1 (nb1) (13-4-48-0; 1-0-1-0; 12-2-31-0; 7-2-11-0; 4-0-15-1); Shahid Afridi 21-0-76-1 (nb2) (5-0-9-0; 7-0-29-0; 9-0-38-1).
Progress: First day: Tea 49-1 (Strauss 29, Cook 5) 15 overs. 50: 67min, 16.3 overs. 100: 128 mins, 28.4 overs. 150: 180min, 42 overs. Close 168-2 (Cook 65, Pietersen 38) 49 overs. Second day: 200: 258min, 61.1 overs. 250: 311min, 74.3 overs. Lunch 272-3 (Cook 114, Collingwood 40) 79 overs. New ball taken after 86.2 overs at 286-3. 300: 370min, 90.1 overs. 350: 434min, 102.5 overs. Tea: 357-7 (Bell 40) 105 overs. 400: 500min, 118.5 overs. 450: 541min, 129.5 overs. Declaration at 5.48pm.
Cook's 50: 120min, 93 balls, 7 fours. 100: 274min, 208 balls, 14 fours. Bell's 50: 99min, 61 balls, 7 fours. 100: 186min, 127 balls, 13 fours, 1 six.
Pakistan - Second Innings
ÝKamran Akmal not out 2
19min, 15 balls
Imran Farhat not out 9
19min, 9 balls, 1 four
Extras (w1) 1
Total (for 0, 19min, 4 overs) 12
To bat: Younis Khan, Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Yousuf, Mohammad Sami, *Inzamam-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria.
Bowling: Hoggard 2-0-10-0; Harmison 1-0-2-0 (w1); Mahmood 1-1-0-0.
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and S J A Taufel (Aus).
TV replay umpire: I J Gould (Eng).
Match referee: R S Madugalle (S Lanka).