Searing, hostile pace and high-quality spin. It is the combination every Test side is looking for and for three memorable days here, in the hands of Stephen Harmison and Monty Panesar, it provided England with the victory they desperately needed. The pair shared 19 wickets - the other was a run-out - as the home side trounced Pakistan by an innings and 120 runs in the second Test to move 1-0 up in the four-match series.
There is a pleasing symmetry between these events and what took place at this famous old ground half a century ago. In the 519 Tests England have played since Jim Laker took 19 for 90 against Australia they have always been reliant on more than two bowlers for their success. In 1997, Philip Tufnell and Andrew Caddick shared 19 wickets at the Oval against Australia but Devon Malcolm, with 1 for 15 in the second innings, prevented the pair from joining Laker, Tony Lock, Harmison and Panesar in an otherwise unique club.
Harmison took 11 for 76 on a pitch that was tailor-made for his bowling. It was thrilling to see him back at his best and he was deservedly man of the match. But we all knew how well he could bowl when conditions suited. On Saturday, as Pakistan fell for 222 in their second innings, it was the mesmeric skills of Panesar that consumed all.
After that performance it would be easy to get carried away. The 24-year-old Sikh has already been labelled the best spinner England has produced since the great Derek Underwood but, even after taking 5 for 72, it is a bit early for that. Panesar has the potential to achieve great things but Tufnell and Philip Edmonds, two high-quality left-arm spinners, put in several fine performances in their England careers.
Panesar is completely different to Underwood, who was at his most effective on uncovered pitches and pushed the ball through at almost medium pace. Panesar's action is reminiscent of Edmonds', in that he is a big, strong man with big, strong hands who tries to give the ball a rip. A high action yields bounce and this, along with a great seam position and top spin, gives batsmen the impression he is bowling faster than he is.
Tufnell may have been Panesar's hero when he was growing up in Luton but the "Crafty Cockney" was not a big spinner of the ball. Tufnell relied on subtle changes of pace and flight. He rarely got the ball to kick on after it pitched and he did not have the confidence of Panesar or Edmonds.
Panesar's eight Tests have been against Asian sides who, historically, are excellent players of spin. Yet his initial 25 wickets have cost a respectable 31 runs each. Of the eight wickets he took at Old Trafford it was that of Inzamam-ul-Haq he enjoyed most. There was some good fortune - Inzamam played a perfect forward defensive only to see the ball bounce on his left boot and lob up to Alastair Cook at silly mid-off - but Inzy is one of the great players of spin bowling.
It was little more than Panesar deserved. He turned the ball sharply and consistently, a combination that was too much for Imran Farhat, Mohammad Yousuf and Faisal Iqbal. And, to show he has variety, Panesar bowled a well-disguised arm ball that skidded on to bamboozle the excellent Younis Khan.
Harmison began the rout when a throat-threatening lifter nearly decapitated Kamran Akmal and it was similar-length deliveries that caused Pakistan's lower order to take life-saving, rather than match-saving, action. The sight of Pakistan batsmen being bombarded by Harmison brought pleasure to a couple of Corporal Jones commentators. Indeed, the tourists did not like it "up 'em", but it is hard to believe England would have, either. It is to be hoped there is no moaning the next time England come across a pitch that is produced to suit their opponents as much as this was fashioned for the home side.
The victory would have been particularly sweet for Andrew Strauss. After winning only one of his previous nine games in charge - against Ireland in Belfast - questions had been asked as to whether England's stand-in for a stand-in captain had what it took to lead the side. This win proves that he does but, in the same way that Panesar should not yet be labelled as a world-beater, Strauss is not a future Michael Brearley. Andrew Flintoff's absence, and the prospect of captaining the side for an entire series, allowed Strauss to be more assertive and creative, and he warmed to the task.
Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, should also be given credit as he would have been involved in the field placings and tactics. Fletcher would have been behind the fly-gully that snapped up Farhat in the first innings and the bowling combinations that set the tone at the start of each session. The most important of these came on Thursday when, after taking two wickets before lunch, England persevered with Panesar and Harmison after the interval. Pakistan lost 8 for 29 and the game was gone.
There were also impressive performances from Cook and Ian Bell, who scored wonderful hundreds, and Geraint Jones behind the stumps. No England player receives more critical attention than Jones but by keeping wicket with a fractured finger he showed his commitment.
England have a tricky decision to make with Jones, who will want to play in Friday's third Test at Headingley no matter the state of his digit. Batsmen and bowlers compete with four or five other players for a place but for a keeper it is either him or me. This is why they are tough little so-and-sos who never want to give a competitor a chance.
England will contemplate one other change in Leeds. Sajid Mahmood bowled only 12 overs at Old Trafford and the selectors, who announce the squad today, may opt for Jonathan Lewis on a pitch that is that the antithesis of Old Trafford: it traditionally helps old-fashioned English seamers.
Scoreboard from Old Trafford
Third day of five; Pakistan won toss
Pakistan - First Innings 119 (S J Harmison 6-19).
England - First Innings 461 for 9 dec (A N Cook 127, I R Bell 106no).
Pakistan - Second Innings
(Friday: 12 for 0)
ÝKamran Akmal c Jones b Harmison 4
35 min, 28 balls
Imran Farhat c Bell b Panesar 34
98 min, 66 balls, 4 fours
Younis Khan lbw b Panesar 62
173 min, 119 balls, 8 fours
Mohammad Yousuf st Jones b Panesar (TV replay) 15
43 min, 32 balls, 2 fours
*Inzamam-ul-Haq c Cook b Panesar (TV replay) 13
18 min, 19 balls, 1 four
Faisal Iqbal c Trescothick b Panesar 29
69 min, 54 balls, 2 fours, 1 six
Abdul Razzaq c Jones b Harmison 13
73 min, 41 balls, 2 fours
Shahid Afridi c Strauss b Harmison 17
19 min, 17 balls, 2 fours, 1 six
Mohammad Sami c Jones b Harmison 0
2 min, 2 balls
Umar Gul c Jones b Harmison 13
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 (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 (nb1) (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: Second day: Close: 12-0 (Kamran Akmal 2, Imran Farhat 9) 4 overs. Third day: 50: 95 min, 19.5 overs. 100: 139 min, 31.3 overs. Lunch: 101-2 (Younis Khan 34, Mohammad Yousuf 15) 32 overs. 150: 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: 265 min, 62.1 overs. Innings closed: 4.48pm.
Younis Khan's 50: 140 min, 91 balls, 6 fours.
England win by an innings and 120 runs
Man of the match: S J Harmison.
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).Reuse content