England thrash Pakistan, but is Joe Root carrying the team?

Victory by 330 runs is fifth largest ever, but Ben Stokes is injured and there are problems elsewhere in team

Joe Root
Joe Root celebrates after taking Pakistan's Wahab Riaz for 19 on the fourth day of the second test 
(Image credit: Jon Super/AFP/Getty Images)

England cricket captain Alastair Cook has come out fighting after his side trounced Pakistan in the second Test at Old Trafford, but still faced criticism for failing to enforce the follow-on.

The victory margin of 330 runs makes it England's fifth-biggest win in history, with the match wrapped up on Monday evening with a day to spare as Pakistan were bowled out for just 234 in their second innings.

In total, the tourists managed just 432 runs in the match, 74 fewer than the 506 racked up by Cook and man-of-the-match Joe Root between them.

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But the skipper was forced to contend with fierce criticism on Sunday, when England chose not to make Pakistan bat again after bowling them out for 198 and establishing a first innings lead of 391. The current trend is for teams not to enforce the follow-on in order to rest the bowlers.

"I was a little bit surprised when I got home and saw the amount of controversy it seemed to cause," he said on Monday. "For me it was a no-brainer.

"We had bowled 60-odd overs and had a couple of guys coming back from injury, so we thought we would pile on a few runs and give them time off and go hard again today.

"I suppose we could have enforced the follow-on and in times gone past they probably would have done, but we still won the game. I'm sorry if people would have done it different, but winning by 350-odd runs is pretty good."

The victory "will provide a massive boost for England's confidence, as they delivered the perfect come back... following a disappointing loss at Lords last week", says the Daily Telegraph.

However, there were also downsides - England's joy "was tempered somewhat by the sight of Ben Stokes, who has just returned from injury, leaving the field injured during the second session of the day".

Stokes pulled up midway through an over with a calf injury and appears unlikely to play at Edgbaston.

England have other issues, says Geoffrey Boycott in the Telegraph. He believes England are a better team than Pakistan, "with two quality batsmen in Alastair Cook and Joe Root as well as an array of seamers that covers up their faults at two, four and five in the batting order".

It seems "churlish to pick holes in England's performance at Old Trafford", says George Dobell of Cricinfo, but Root's dominance of the match - he scored 254 and 71 not out - could be masking deeper issues.

Whether England have gelled as a team or are "being dragged along by the improvement in their best young player is open to debate", he adds. "It remains entirely possible that England will go to India later this year with a new opening batsman, a new first-choice spinner and a new face in the middle-order."

Moeen Ali feels the heat as Pakistan put England in a spin

18 July

England's cricketers suffered their first defeat of the summer on Sunday as they were soundly beaten by Pakistan at Lord's, undone by a mixture of Yasir Shah's leg breaks and their own recklessness.

The writing was on the wall early on in the match as Pakistan established a first-innings lead, largely thanks to a mighty 114 from captain Misbah ul-Haq, and then left England chasing 283 to win the match on the fourth day.

It was a gettable target, but the home side were undone by Yasir as they limped to 207 all out.

Yet again, England's batsmen were left befuddled and beguiled by the turning ball. In the first innings, batsmen three through to seven all fell to Shah, who ended with figures of six for 72. He repeated the trick in the second scalping, from five to eight, to claim four for 69 and notch up ten wickets in the match.

Captain Alastair Cook provided one beacon of resistance with a reasonably sprightly 81 in the first innings, passing Sunil Gavaskar's mark of 9,607 runs to ensure his place in the record books as the most prolific opening batsman in the history of Test cricket.

No other England batsman passed 50 in the match as they were undone by a mixture of canny bowling and their own poor decision-making, which was summed up by Moeen Ali's suicidal charge down the wicket that effectively ended England's chances on Sunday.

It was "catastrophically ill-judged", says The Guardian's Mike Selvey, while Geoffrey Boycott of the Daily Telegraph described it and the subsequent wild heave, which saw Ali clean-bowled, as as a moment of "absolute madness or stupidity".

"He is either full of bravado or terrified of trying to bat properly," he added.

Shah's brilliance and the eventual result also meant Chris Woakes's splendid 11-wicket match haul and gritty late-middle order batting (58 runs from 204 balls, being dismissed only once) will go down as little more than a footnote in the records of the match.

His impressive command of swing and seam deserved more, with his 19 wickets at just 13.3 this summer providing a huge boost for England as they look to find a long-term successor to James Anderson.

On the topic of footnotes, Mohammad Amir's first Test since his lengthy ban for spot-fixing went by without incident, with the 24-year-old player ending with match figures of three for 104, after taking the final wicket with a full, straight ball to dismiss Jake Ball.

And, warns the Telegraph, captain Misbah delivered a chilling warning to the defeated England batsmen. "He [Amir] will get better because sometimes there is some sort of mental blockage, here especially at this venue. That obviously comes into your mind. Now it's over, he can really be more effective in Pakistan team," he said.

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