England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day July 29, 2006

Strauss hails ruthless England

Andrew Strauss said Steve Harmison's efforts made his job much easier © Getty Images
During the one-day series whitewash against Sri Lanka, Andrew Strauss admitted things couldn't get much worse. In the sporting world things can turn around pretty quickly as he proclaimed his side's innings-and-120-run demolition of Pakistan "wasn't far off the perfect game, to be honest."

Then, with a glint in the eye and a force in his voice that Strauss doesn't often show he epitomised England's cut-throat approach in the match. "When we had Pakistan we wanted to knock them down and bury them and we did that pretty well today. We wanted to identity those crucial periods and then step up a gear. That is often the difference between winning and losing."

It was England's most convincing performance since their inspired victory at Mumbai to level the series against India and was the desperate injection of life their summer needed. Strauss, Andrew Flintoff and Duncan Fletcher have been quick to defend their team during the rough times and have backed their ability. Just as they have tried to keep a level head in defeat, Strauss doesn't want to get to giddy in victory, but he did add: "We have achieved everything we set out for and the guys are going to enjoy tonight, but come Friday it is nought for nought again. We have to get back to what we did well in this match."

As Strauss said, England did everything well in the last three days. "If you wanted to write down on a piece of paper how to win a Test it would be pretty close to what went on this week," he enthused. "The bowlers were fantastic, Steve [Harmison] in the first innings and Monty applied some great pressure in both innings while the batters were very professional."

"I must admit it looked like the wicket had flattened out and we thought it would be tough work. But we knew the spinner would play a key part and Monty did a great job. There was turn and bounce but the way he approached his bowling was first-rate. He's a pretty happy man at the moment and rightly so."

The best thing to happen to England was for Inzamam-ul-Haq to win the toss, allowing Harmison an early crack with pitch at its fastest, although Strauss was confident his attack would have performed at any stage. "I still think it would have suited our bowlers whenever we bowled on it," he said. "The fact that we had big Steve running and hitting those cracks made a hell of a lot of difference. It probably was a good toss to lose but I'd have backed us to win batting first as well."

In the current climate it was easy to fear the worst when Harmison grimaced and held his side on Friday evening. Twenty-four hours later the main danger of injury was from the bear hugs he received on claiming Pakistan's final wicket and sealing a career-best 11-wicket haul. "He woke up a little bit stiff this morning but it wasn't a muscular thing. It was just a case of having a warm-up and then he was good to go. I think he was still a little concerned for an over or so but then he was raring to go." Harmison just needs to bottle this form and Fed-Ex it out to Brisbane.

Strauss had an outstanding game as captain; bowling changes worked and tactics - such as targeting Inzamam with Harmison - worked a treat. "One thing we've tried to drum into ourselves is the need to stick to good plans," he explained. "We've just got to stick to them and we know they we will work. From that point of view it was a pretty easy game to captain and long may it continue." It's great when a plan comes together.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo