Third Test

England v Pakistan, 2006

Chris Waters

At Leeds, August 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. England won by 167 runs. Toss: England.

If the enduring image of the summer of 2005 was that of Andrew Flintoff consoling Brett Lee following "The Greatest Test" at Edgbaston, this game provided a snapshot of 2006.

Shortly before tea on the third afternoon, Inzamam-ul-Haq tried to sweep a delivery from Panesar, only to overbalance, as the ball bounced into his midriff, and fall back towards the stumps. Despite a desperate effort to hurdle the wicket, Inzamam knocked off the bails as he bellyflopped to the ground. As England's fielders celebrated and a sell-out crowd chuckled, the poor old batsman sat bewildered and stunned, his expression worthy of Oliver Hardy.

If the sideshow was comical, the main event was clinical. At 2.55 on the final day, England's second successive resounding victory clinched their first series triumph since regaining the Ashes. Although it lacked the devastating efficiency of the win in Manchester, it was no less impressive for being hard-earned. After months of picking half-heartedly at the opposition, England's appetite had returned.

So, too, had the stylish wicketkeeper Chris Read, finally selected ahead of Geraint Jones, who had played 31 consecutive Tests since displacing him in Antigua in April 2004, but now paid the price for a paucity of runs: only 91 in his last ten Test innings. Pietersen's drought was hardly comparable - but, with 160 runs in six innings since his two hundreds against Sri Lanka, he also felt the need to reassert himself. His teammates had shared six centuries at Lord's and Old Trafford, leaving Pietersen with the air of a peacock that had no tailfeathers. As England opened up with 515, however, he was back in full strut.

He still rode his luck, and so did England. Four times on the opening day they benefited from controversial decisions, three by Hair, one by Doctrove. Strauss and Cook should have been given out caught behind from edges, while Pietersen could have been lbw twice. He was also caught off a no-ball and dropped, before being forced to retire hurt with cramp in his left arm, shortly after completing his fifth Test century. "I had breakfast at 8 a.m. and since then only one banana before retiring hurt at 4.30, so the cramp was probably due to a lack of salts or something," he explained. Even in his absence, the bowlers could not get away from him: a giant mugshot of Pietersen stared down from an advertisement high above the arm at the Kirkstall Lane End, like a deity surveying the captive crowds.

He resumed next morning and advanced to 135 before skying to deep mid-off, while Bell maintained his marauding form to become the first Englishman since Graham Gooch in 1990 to score hundreds in three successive Tests. His innings, allied to some lusty lower-order thumping, elevated England from 347 for six; Umar Gul persevered to take five for 123.

Pakistan quickly lost both openers before a recovery to electrify the senses. At 3.23 on the second day, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf came together and marched relentlessly on until 2.39 the following afternoon, at which point Yousuf gloved a catch down the leg side off Harmison after a stand worth 363 in 84 overs.

Their alliance was the fifth-highest for any wicket against England, Pakistan's highest against England, the third-best in a Headingley Test, and the biggest in all Test cricket in a losing cause. They scored more than the entire Pakistan team managed in two innings at Old Trafford, where 20 wickets tumbled for 341, and it was their fifth century stand in six Tests since January.

Yousuf, whose off-side play kissed perfection, departed eight short of his third double-century in four Tests against England, while Younis, all upright defence and judicious aggression, perished through that signature Pakistan dismissal: a calamitous mix-up with Inzamam. It was one of four run-outs executed by England's gleamingly professional out-cricket. From 447 for three, Pakistan lost three for four in ten balls, including Collingwood's first Test victim with his 381st delivery. It took a last-wicket stand of 42 between Shahid Nazir, recalled after a seven-year hiatus, and Danish Kaneria to eke out a slender advantage. Though the lead was theirs, the momentum was England's.

Trescothick and Strauss built on that impetus, opening the second innings with 158. Strauss progressed to a tenth Test hundred, and second in three matches, his batting apparently empowered by the captaincy. After Read had punched a maiden Test fifty, which bloodied the noses of one or two critics, Pakistan were left requiring 323 on the last day: more than they had ever scored in the fourth innings to win, though it looked quite possible on a sporting pitch.

In scenes reminiscent of the Ashes, more than 15,000 turned up for the finale, and the queues snaked back along St Michael's Lane. When Younis and Yousuf were holding court at 68 for two, Pakistan's supporters dared to dream. But the day turned on the run-out of Yousuf, beaten by Collingwood's brilliant underarm shy from backward point as they tried to purloin a foolhardy single. Younis was later undone by a beauty from Panesar that pitched on middle stump and shaved the top of off.

Panesar finished with six wickets at a venue where only one had fallen to an English spinner in seven Tests. Meanwhile the other England bowler with Asian ancestry, Mahmood, made light of taunts from Pakistan supporters who accused him of forsaking his heritage; he claimed four for 22, his best Test analysis yet, as the tourists crumpled inside 48 overs. Only Younis and Inzamam, who could not bat until No. 7 after missing much of the fourth day with a rib injury, exceeded 17.

It was only the tenth instance of a team losing a Test after scoring 500. The match aggregate of 1,553 was the highest for a five-day Test in which all 40 wickets fell, though four timeless Tests had beaten it over six or seven days.

No sooner had England completed their first home series triumph over Pakistan for 24 years than Panesar was made several bookmakers' favourite to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year. And the name "Monty" was in headlines to an extent perhaps not seen since El Alamein.

Man of the Match: Younis Khan.

© Wisden Cricketers' Almanack