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August 8, 2006
Considering that the day started with England only marginal favourites, their final-day performance was as crushing and clinical as they come. In many ways this was more impressive than their bowling performances in the three-day demolition job at Old Trafford. The Headingley pitch confounded expectations throughout and none of Pakistan's second-innings wickets can be put down solely to the surface.
What will please Andrew Strauss - and even the straight-faced Duncan Fletcher - is the fact that the main two protagonists, Panesar and Mahmood, form the young half of England's bowling attack. Slowly but surely England's jigsaw pieces are being slotted into place. Panesar gives them a match-winning spinner and Mahmood has thrown his hat into the ring for the back-up paceman slot.
As at Old Trafford, Panesar's figures were bettered by a seamer with Mahmood bagging his first four-wicket haul of an embryonic Test career. Yet it was still Panesar that was the key to victory and this time with little support from Steve Harmison. He produced the ball of the series to remove Younis Khan, the last barrier to England, seven overs after lunch and always kept the batsmen under pressure.
With Younis again playing serenely on 41, Panesar's ripping delivery pitched on middle and leg, turned, spun past the edge of the bat and just flicked the off bail. He has bowled some jaffers this season, but that ball topped the lot. A statistic bandied around throughout the match had been the two wickets taken by English spinners at Headingley in the last 10 years; Panesar trebled that with six and always offered Strauss control.
But while the wicket of Younis signalled that this was England's match, the victory charge had been set up during the morning session. There was no swing for Hoggard, but he still made the first breakthrough when Salman Butt flashed loosely to first slip, while Taufeeq Umar was tied in knots as Panesar made his first impact on proceedings. That was just a preamble; the real battle started when Mohammad Yousuf arrived to join Younis.
However, the stand had barely got going when Younis dropped the ball into the off side, but they'd picked out England's best ground-fielder. Collingwood sprinted in from backward point and hit the stumps - England's third direct hit of the match - to catch Yousuf inches short of his ground. The momentum was now all with the home side and they knew it.
Their last glimmer of hope was Inzamam-ul-Haq, batting at No. 7 after his time off the field yesterday, but he'd been left with a mountain to climb. He and Younis showed positive intent but when Panesar produced his magic ball, Inzamam knew just the final rites remained. England administered them with a ruthlessness that bodes well for the challenges to come.
Another shambolic run out accounted for Mohammad Sami; a further slapdash piece of cricket from a player who failed to emerge from the doldrums in this series. Mahmood then ended some brief defiance from Shahid Nazir and bagged his fourth when Umar Gul was well caught, low at third slip by Collingwood.
The final wicket encapsulated the match as Inzamam charged Panesar and Read completed a simple stumping, making it five dismissals on his return. As Inzamam sidled slowly off the ground he was left to rue a series where his team made too many mistakes. However, over the last two weeks England's players have answered most of the questions that have been thrown their way. It has been a tough 12 months for a side that touched such exalted heights almost a year ago, but that will make this crushing victory taste even sweeter.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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