England v Pakistan, 1st npower Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day August 1, 2010

Strauss urges consistency after England triumph

In the end, resistance was brief and futile. With James Anderson unplayable and England's slip cordon on fire, Pakistan shed seven wickets in the morning session to crumble to a miserable 80 all out - eight runs fewer than the total for which they themselves had dispatched the Australians in their previous Test outing at Headingley last week. The net result was defeat by a massive 354 runs, the second-largest margin ever inflicted by an England team in Test history.

And yet, the overall impression was ever so slightly misleading. At times in the contest - most notably when Eoin Morgan was reprieved early in the first innings, and again when Matt Prior emerged at 72 for 5 second-time around, England were made to toil as hard as they have done for months. For that reason, their captain Andrew Strauss was able to take immense pleasure from a performance that was at times devastatingly skilful, but at the same time brimful of determination.

"We had to work hard, very hard, at stages of the game," said Strauss. "But the encouraging thing for me was we got through those tricky situations and came out the other side really well. Our bowling was outstanding throughout, as was our fielding, so there are a lot of things to pat ourselves on the back about. But I think we're also conscious that our overriding aim is to achieve consistency, and you don't do that in one game."

In actual fact, England have now won five Tests in a row, a sequence they've not matched since their 2004-05 zenith. However, with four consecutive wins against Bangladesh and now a thumping result against a batting line-up that lacks even the class of a Tamim Iqbal to bolster its potential, there's a limit to how excited England can dare to get about such form. Nevertheless, with Morgan, Prior and Anderson all excelling in their respective disciplines, it's fair to suggest that better opponents would have struggled to stay in the same contest.

"Against the best teams in their own conditions, we've still got some work to do, but Tests like this give me a lot of heart," said Strauss. "If you want to be a top quality Test team you are going to need guys to get you out of trouble at times, so that's encouraging. And you can say that Pakistan [batted] poorly, but I prefer to focus on the bowling. There's no better bowler in the world when it's swinging than Jimmy, and he was backed up very well by the other two [Stuart Broad and Steven Finn]."

Anderson's outstanding figures of 11 for 71 were his best figures in all first-class cricket, and included a wrecking-ball spell of 15-8-17-6 in the second innings. He of all people knows he is unlikely to be presented with such a tantalising combination of circumstances in every outing - tailor-made conditions, coupled with demoralised and clueless opponents - but given his reputation for on-off performances, the mere fact he was able to replicate his form from the first innings was significant. For all that he's renowned for an ability to cut through opposition batting line-ups, he had only ever claimed one previous ten-wicket haul in his first-class career.

"It was a fantastic feeling," said Anderson. "The one thing we've talked about as bowlers is trying to concentrate on it not swinging. Our main job as seam bowlers is to create pressure from both ends by bowling maidens and finding good areas consistently. When it's swinging it obviously helps me more than the other two, so we can bowl slightly more attackingly. But that's what our focus has been in our preparations.

"I managed to get some rhythm early on, and I got the rub of the green with the nicks and the catches in the slips, but that spell is up there because of the patience that I felt like I bowled with throughout both innings," he added. "I didn't try to get greedy and bowl the magic ball too much, so I was really happy with the way I performed."

Patience will have to be a major part of Anderson's armoury if he is to play a significant part in this winter's Ashes, when the ball is unlikely to respond to the conditions with anything approaching the same impact. And while the impending trip to Australia is largely a taboo subject for now, England have already declared their intentions to begin practicing with the Kookaburra ball as soon as the Pakistan series is out of the way.

"It's in the back of everyone's mind, but this week and next week we'll be focussing on Pakistan," said Anderson. "I think it's really, really important for the whole team to get some form in this series, because we've got 15 days of Test cricket left to go, so we've got to work really hard and build up some form and momentum before the Ashes."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments