Pace & spin form a deadly bond

The fast Steve Harmison and the slow Monty Panesar were England's bowling heroes as Pakistan crashed to an innings defeat. A review by Ted Corbett.

England's heroes in their victory over Pakistan in the second Test at Old Trafford were a study in contrast. Steve Harmison, man of the match with his first haul of more than 10 wickets in 43 Tests, is a 6ft 5in son of the coalfields, homesick every time he goes 100 miles never mind 12,000 miles overseas, so quiet that he celebrates his biggest success simply by raising his arms.

He speaks quietly, particularly about his own deeds, his every action mimics his bowling in economy and grace and there never appears to be more than a moment's anxiety or annoyance when acts of God and umpires run against him.

At his best, roaring to the crease like a typhoon, he is at the top of his profession, rolling out one 90 miles an hour delivery after another, some with a touch of outswing, others so directly towards the base of the stumps that they might be put on track by a laser beam.

"It was nice to feel the ball coming out just right. For the last few matches it has been getting better but in this match, with the pitch just about perfect, I was glad when we lost the toss, to be frank. And it seems to have worked all right, doesn't it?" he whispered diffidently.

"Worked all right?" I'll say. Eleven wickets in the match represented his first haul of 10 or more wickets in any first class match. Destroying the Pakistani tail in the second innings required 22 balls in which he took four for 13. By the time he had knocked over six in the first innings the match was as good as won and the echoes of his performance must have travelled far. Down Under they were their usual cocky, casual, over-confident selves — I'd say "arrogant" but I am just as restrained a British gentleman as Harmison — but one or two of their Test batsmen must have thought "if Harmy bowls like that at Perth we will be in trouble."

At the other end was a bearded, cuddly bear of a bowler who is not at all sure whether he will be in Australia next autumn but who might just be one of the few slow left-arm bowlers to star in the wide, brown land.

Monty Panesar's roots lie in the Punjab as much as the motor town of Luton where he was born and even in an era when there is no limit to how wild a sportsman may be when he takes a wicket or scores a goal his exhibition of gambolling , whooping and high fives is as Strictly Come Dancing as anything won by Darren Gough.

I am waiting for a television company to set his high steppin' to music but as the ditchwater dull Sky now transmit 90 per cent of cricket in this country I am not holding my breath.

For six Tests Panesar has just been practising. By the time he arrived at Old Trafford he was perfect. His line, his length, his loop, his pace and the extraordinary amount of turn — devastating. Bishan Bedi is the nearest comparison I can call to mind — and Panesar is only 23. "I feel a member of the squad now," he said, a nicely judged modest remark. It may not be long before his name is popped on the team sheet first and that would be a mighty honour in a side that looks stronger every match, even though they still have all those injuries to consider.

Between the two of them — fast boy Steve and oh so slow Monty — they mopped up all 19 Pakistan wickets to fall to bowlers. Danish Kaneria was run out in the first innings. Two bowlers sharing all the victims has not happened since Jim Laker took 19 Australian wickets 50 years ago and his mate Tony Lock had to console himself with just one.

Harmison, so confident of an England victory that he insisted on checking out of the team hotel in the morning, is the only bowler to take 10 wickets at Old Trafford since Laker's incredible feat.

There are many reasons why this win in three days can be seen as important. England have not won much since their Ashes success and there was a fear that their defeats would have an effect on next summer's advanced sales. Most of all, this win will bring back the confidence to tackle Australia and stop the constant talk of injuries and misfortune that has dogged them for a year.

Panesar, who began as a joke because of his poor fielding and batting has found a fan club that roar him on when he goes for the ball and rise to their feet as he heads for the crease. The team enjoy his enthusiasm; the crowd love his bowling, which has brought 25 wickets in seven Tests, including three wins.

Monty is as big a celebrity as anyone who has spent 12 weeks locked in a house and with good reason. It was his beautiful bowling on the third and final day that made world class batsmen stumble. He took the wickets of the three giants — Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq — to leave Pakistan floundering at five for 161.

His return of 27-4-72-5 is the best England spin bowling seen on this ground for 10 years. Never mind Shane Warne's Ball of the Century in 1993; Old Trafford has been a graveyard for the bravest slow bowlers.

Only four have taken six wickets or more since the miracle of Laker: 7-35 by Tony Lock against New Zealand in 1958; 6-66 by Derek Underwood against the Aussies in 1977; 6-67 by Peter Such against Australia in 1993; and 6-79 by Pat Pocock against Australia in 1968.

So Panesar's eight wickets for 93 in the match have put him among the greats. The players certainly think so because both Harmison and the new captain Andrew Strauss made a point of mentioning his part in the victory in the post-match interviews.

Pakistan will not take this defeat too much to heart. They batted badly in the first innings and by the end of the first day they had no means of escape from the innings thrashing. Inzamam-ul-Haq said as much later, shaking his head slowly as a headmaster might on hearing naughty boys had broken a few windows. They need some luck at Headingley where the pitch, the overhead and the crowd are unpredictable and, so it is said in the bazaars, Shoaib Akhtar and Naved-ul-Hasan, may return. I will believe that when I see it but in the meantime Pakistan are a talented side and no-one with any sense expects that one defeat will change their status.

If England manage that by the middle of September then Australia may have a fight on their hands soon afterwards.

THE SCORES

Second Test, Old Trafford, July 27-29, 2006. England won by an innings and 120 runs.

Pakistan — 1st innings: K. Akmal c Trescothick b Harmison 4; I. Farhat c Pietersen b Harmison 0; Y. Khan c Collingwood b Harmison 44; M. Yousuf c Jones b Panesar 38; I. Haq c Pietersen b Harmison 0; F. Iqbal c Jones b Panesar 3; A. Razzaq b Harmison 9; S. Afridi c Pietersen b Panesar 15; M. Sami c Strauss b Harmison 1; U. Gul (not out) 1; D. Kaneria (run out) 0; Extras (lb-2, w-2) 4. Total 119.

Fall of wkts: 1-4, 2-9, 3-90, 4-90, 5-93, 6-93, 7-112, 8-113, 9-118.

England bowling: Hoggard 9-1-30-0; Harmison 13-7-19-6; Mahmood 6-1-33-0; Collingwood 3-0-14-0; Panesar 7.4-3-21-3.

England — 1st innings: M. Trescothick c Akmal b Sami 5; A. Strauss c Akmal b Razzaq 42; A. Cook lbw b Gul 127; K. Pietersen c Farhat b Gul 38; P. Collingwood c Sami b Gul 48; I. Bell (not out) 106; G. Jones lbw b Sami 8; S. Mahmood c & b Razzaq 12; M. Hoggard lbw b Afridi 6; S. Harmison c Akmal b Kaneria 26; M. Panesar (not out) 3; Extras (b-9, lb-10, w-7, nb-14) 40; Total (for nine wkts. decl.) 461.

Fall of wkts: 1-30, 2-95, 3-169, 4-288, 5-304, 6-321, 7-357, 8-384, 9-457.

Pakistan bowling: Sami 28-5-92-2; Gul 28-2-96-3; Razzaq 19-4-72-2; Kaneria 37-8-106-1; Afridi 21-0-76-1.

Pakistan — 2nd innings: K. Akmal c Jones b Harmison 4; I. Farhat c Bell b Panesar 34; Y. Khan lbw b Panesar 62; M. Yousuf st. Jones b Panesar 15; I. Haq c Cook b Panesar 13; F. Iqbal c Trescothick b Panesar 29; A. Razzaq c Jones b Harmison 13; S. Afridi c Strauss b Harmison 17; M. Sami c Jones b Harmison 0; U. Gul c Jones b Harmison 13; D. Kaneria (not out) 4; Extras (b-4, lb-4, w-6, nb-4) 18. Total 222.

Fall of wkts: 1-21, 2-60, 3-101, 4-117, 5-161, 6-174, 7-194, 8-194, 9-208.

England bowling: Hoggard 14-2-52-0; Harmison 18.1-3-57-5; Mahmood 6-1-22-0; Panesar 27-4-72-5; Pietersen 2-0-11-0.