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July 29, 2006
Remarkably, just two men - Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison - shared the wickets in both innings, the pair combining quite brilliantly to take 19 for 169 to crush Pakistan by an innings and 120 runs. After squashing Pakistan for 119 in the first innings, it was déjà vu in the second, too, as the unlikely marriage cut the visitors' batting apart with controlled, directed aggression. Only Younis Khan, with a fighting 62, showed any semblance of authority; in spite of England's excellence, Pakistan's batsmen simply weren't up for the fight and wilted under the pressure.
Every hack and their editor were calling, pleading for Harmison to shake off his midwinter blues, apply fresh Duracell to his radar and finally return to his lethal best. No coincidence, then, that in taking his first 10-wicket haul, England dominated their opponents so well. The vice-like grip they held over Pakistan for nearly every session in this match owes much to Harmison, of that there is no doubt. Equally, however, his and England's performance would not have been so impressive were it not for Monty Panesar, England's latest jewel in a crown which, since winning the Ashes, had lost diamonds and pearls aplenty. The pair, in both of Pakistan's innings, were as irresistible as Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in their pomp.
Harmison was the overwhelming difference. In just his second over today, a violent lifter accounted for Kamran Akmal who fended it awkwardly to Geraint Jones, diving smoothly to his right to take a fine catch. It was the start England craved, if only to see their gangling fast bowler show no sign of the twinge in his back which forced him off the field late last night. No sooner had Harmison put Pakistan on the back foot than Panesar was rightly brought into the attack by Strauss, who hardly put a foot wrong in the Test.
Panesar, already so loved by the public in just his eight matches, had his finest performance on the field to date with a beautifully controlled (and at times unplayable) spell of bowling. The remarkable turn he gained - he is, after all, a finger spinner - surprised as many as it delighted. On countless occasions, deliciously flighted balls on the right-handers' leg-stump ripped and spat past their outside edge; such was the profuse spin of one delivery that it landed in Marcus Trescothick's lap at first slip. Pakistan were spun out, all the more remarkable given their oh-so-natural ability to play slow bowling.
Even Mohammad Yousuf, who only last week demonstrated such impenetrable defence with a double hundred at Lord's, appeared clueless to the mercurial Monty. Immediately after lunch, much as was the case in Pakistan's first innings, Panesar struck; this time it was Yousuf when Jones pulled off a slick stumping in what has been a faultless Test for him, again, with the gloves. With Yousuf gone, in strode Inzamam-ul-Haq who Harmison peppered with a selection of well-directed, calculated bouncers. He was decidedly shaken up.
As Harmison put the batsmen on the back foot, Panesar drew them forward and Inzamam clubbed one into his foot, handing England's resident short-leg, Ian Bell, a simple catch. Yousuf and Inzamam gone, and England's grip suddenly tightened. Younis briefly flirted with an aggressive counterattack - hooking Harmison with unabashed audacity in a bold, if slightly vain attempt to shift the momentum - before Panesar trapped him leg before and the gates were open.
Harmison returned with a glint in his eye and, bowling his fastest spell of the match fired out Pakistan's lower-order with tremendous venom. In dismissing Umar Gul, he took his first ten-wicket haul for England while also becoming the first since Jim Laker, 50 years ago to the week, to take ten-for at Old Trafford.
With the unfortunate injuries affecting Pakistan's squad, their coach Bob Woolmer has quite a task to lift them in time for next week's third Test at Headingley. Such a naturally gifted side, they were shellshocked by Harmison in this Test. For England, their summer has begun.
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