England v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Headingley August 3, 2006

Pressure on Read as England hunt series win

Chris Read has been given another chance to prove himself at Test level © Getty Images
Three days is all it took for England's summer to take on an entirely new complexion. Their performance at Old Trafford displayed all the qualities of ruthlessness and aggression that had been lacking in previous performances. Now they aim to carry that momentum into the Headingley Test and wrap up a morale-boosting series win that would avenge their 2-0 defeat in Pakistan last winter.

The questions that had been raised in the opening encounter at Lord's - Andrew Strauss's captaincy, Steve Harmison's hunger and Monty Panesar's effectiveness - were given very emphatic answers. Then, two days after their win, England surprisingly decided to solve another conundrum - what to do with Geraint Jones. The move to drop him, because of form not his finger injury, and hand Chris Read a recall is interesting because of its timing. Read's every move over the next two Tests will be scrutinised in minute detail, starting with his performance at Leeds.

The likelihood is that Read will be the only change from the XI that stormed home at Old Trafford. Although only two England bowlers - Harmison and Panesar - took wickets in the last Test, the attack was well-balanced and showed how, in the worst-case scenario, England can go about winning Tests with four bowlers.

Sajid Mahmood is the man under pressure for his place, but there were glimpses of his potential and he has the raw qualities of pace and bounce that Duncan Fletcher so admires. A return to Jon Lewis - for what would surely be another one-off game - would be harking back to the bad old days of horses for courses at Headingley, a strategy which has rarely proved successful. However, the pitch is not expected to suit Harmison as much as Old Trafford.

The batting is ticking along nicely, even without contributions from Marcus Trescothick and Kevin Pietersen. They have yet to register a half-century between them in the series and at some point the youngsters are not going to rock up and score a century. "Of course I want to get runs every time I go out to bat so it is not an ideal situation," said Trescothick, who averages 45 at Headingley. "I have not seen it as I would have liked to over the last couple of games or played as well as I can do. Hopefully, it will kick back in this week. It's always nice when you turn up at a ground knowing the last time you were here you did well."

Old Trafford was tough for Inzamam-ul-Haq and he'll be hoping his team shows more fight at Headingley © Getty Images
After being in charge of England's 5-0 one-day whitewash against Sri Lanka, Strauss is relieved to be on the winning trail as captain. "That was a pretty bleak day [after the final ODI] and the drive back to London that evening. But we take a lot of heart and a lot of confidence from what went on at Old Trafford.

"Winning a Test match without Fred [Flintoff] was important for us just to prove to ourselves and others that there is life without Fred. Hopefully, he'll be back as soon as possible [from an ankle injury] but until then it is important we can churn out victories without him."

However, he is aware that England mustn't let their focus drift: "I'm always wary of the match after games like that because it's easy psychologically to take your foot off the gas a little bit and that is something we need to address and make sure doesn't happen to us this week."

Pakistan can't really sink much lower than Manchester; it was a display that showcased the worst side of their cricket. Bob Woolmer has a huge task to turn their form around for the final two games, but the mercurial nature of Pakistan cricket means they are just as likely to produce a matchwinning display at Headingley as they are to produce another dismal effort to match Old Trafford.

They are set to field a new opening partnership after the double failure of Kamran Akmal at the top of the order and Imran Farhat's broken finger. Woolmer has also hinted that they will consider altering the balance of their attack in favour of four pacemen instead of playing both Danish Kaneria and Shahid Afridi.

In their current frame of mind, England won't mind who they face. After a performance of such dominance as they produced at Old Trafford, and the ingredients of their success being pace and spin, thoughts are again heading towards the winter. However, England are well aware of the dangers of complacency. Pakistan have gained a steely edge under Woolmer and will be determined to keep the series alive.

England (probable) 1 Marcus Trescothick, 2 Andrew Strauss (capt), 3 Alastair Cook, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Ian Bell, 7 Chris Read (wk), 8 Sajid Mahmood, 9 Matthew Hoggard, 10 Steve Harmison, 11 Monty Panesar

Pakistan (probable) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Abdul Razzaq, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Mohammad Sami, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Shahid Nazir 11 Danish Kaneria

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo