What a difference a matter of a few days, and a change in venue can make. At Lord's, Pakistan came up with a well-oiled effort, at a venue where they had a point to prove considering the bad past history. They played as a team ready to win at all costs. At Manchester, the hunger was missing, and the accelerator seemed on the other foot. It were England who played as if they were desperate to prove that the Lord's Test was just a one-off, and did so in the most convincing of fashion. Right from the time the match began till the conclusion, they dominated, and for a majority of the game, Pakistan were mere spectators.
In a Test match, the beginning often makes the difference, and sets the tone for the rest of the game. Things were no different at Old Trafford. The big partnership between Alastair Cook and Joe Root gave England a big advantage, and Pakistan could never regain lost ground. At the beginning of the Test, as was the case at the start of the series, it was clearly mentioned that Cook and Root will have to play pivotal roles for England to do well. Cook succeeded to some extent at Lord's, but Root could not make much of an impression, as a result of which England suffered in a big way.
The manner in which Root batted on and on was a clear sign of how desperate he was for a big score. In this last few Tests, he had constantly crossed the half-century mark, but few of them were converted into big knocks. Root more than made amends for his previous disappointments. His double hundred was exactly the kind of innings England needed to boss over Pakistan. His taming of Lord's hero Yasir Shah was particularly impressive. Yes, he was lucky on a couple or occasions, but like class players do, rode his own luck. Cook could not carry on to a big score, but he would be glad to have equalled the record of the great Sir Don Bradman.
There was some criticism around England not enforcing the follow-on despite gaining a huge first-innings lead. But, the team's bowlers ensured that there was no embarrassment in store for the hosts. At times, the theory of enforcing the follow-on can be overrated. England proved against Pakistan that batting the team out also works emphatically, as they wielded the willow with aggression and a target in mind. The bowlers themselves did a great job. Chris Woakes is developing with every match, and James Anderson's return was a definite plus although he wasn't at his best. Stuart Broad also chipped in well.
Even as England's victory was emphatic, it cannot hide the chinks in the team's honour. After a decent series against Sri Lanka, opener Alex Hales has now registered four failures in a row. He has looked least convincing during his stay out in the middle. The performance of James Vince and Gary Ballance would also worry the English think-tank. Over the course of the two Tests, both batsmen have got starts, but have failed to get the big scores. And so, Pakistan will know that if they can get rid of Cook and Root, they will be in with a definite chance as was the case at Lord's. So England can celebrate, but they need to remain cautious.
--By A Cricket Analyst