Joe Root displayed great discipline in compiling his match-winning 254 in the first innings at Old Trafford. © Getty Images

Joe Root displayed great discipline in compiling his match-winning 254 in the first innings at Old Trafford. © Getty Images

I, and most people, expected England to bounce back after the reversal at Lord’s. They are far too good a team, that too at home, to not come back strongly after their shocking loss in the Lord’s Test. Pakistan played well at Lord’s, make no mistake; England didn’t. In the second Test, England put their best foot forward, showed a lot of discipline in their batting and their bowling, and dominated Pakistan.

Perhaps, after playing Sri Lanka, who were not very competitive, England were taken by surprise at how strongly Pakistan came at them. It seems England didn’t expect to come across such a strong Pakistan side. I don’t know why that might have been, though, because after losing to Pakistan in the UAE, England should have known about all their strengths, and about Yasir Shah. But they might have felt they would win at Lord’s without much trouble, a bit of complacency creeping in being in home conditions.

But the good thing is that after losing at Lord’s, they woke themselves up. They also had a stronger team. With Jimmy Anderson and Ben Stokes fit – unfortunately, Stokes has hurt himself again – they were back as expected in the lineup. That was an important factor but more importantly, they played much better cricket. Their batsmen showed good discipline. Especially Alastair Cook and Joe Root. They both scored centuries – Root got an outstanding double-century – in the first innings and then they both got 70s in the second, although the second innings was more a matter of aesthetics than real value. They really showed their class with great application and discipline, each perhaps making only one mistake in their innings.

The Pakistan batsmen, on the other hand, just didn’t have the same kind of discipline.

When it comes to the Pakistan pacers, Mohammad Amir bowled well. But they have been dropping so many catches. Fast bowlers need fielders; they need a good slip cordon. People talk about the West Indies team that I played in with the four fast bowlers, but we still needed the support of our fielders, especially the slip cordon, and we certainly got it.

In the first Test, it was Misbah-ul-Haq’s batting and the bowling, led by Yasir, which took Pakistan to victory. Azhar Ali and Younis Khan, both senior batsmen, were not too effective, and the openers – Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood – didn’t fill me with confidence. Masood is a young man, who has every chance of getting better, but at the moment looks out of place, just hanging his bat out to dry and eventually offering the slip cordon comfortable catches. He seems like a walking wicket right now when up against Anderson in particular and Chris Woakes. Pakistan must find someone else to do the job at the start, the middle order needs a bit of help if they are going to put a good score together.

But it’s not just Masood. He may look the most vulnerable, but the Pakistani batsmen, all of them, have to show much more commitment in the next two Tests, because England are going to walk away with this series otherwise. You can’t be hanging your bat out, in swinging conditions, just to feel the ball on the bat. They have to be a lot more selective in which balls they need to play and which can be easily left alone to pass harmlessly by. They wouldn’t go far wrong in trying to take a leaf out of Cook’s and Root’s books.

Pakistan’s bowling fell short of what was expected as well. It was not as penetrative at Old Trafford. Part of that is because of the greater commitment on the part of the England batsmen, especially Cook and Root, but the pitch was also a factor. The ball came on to the bat nicely and at a consistent pace and bounce. Bad deliveries are much more easily put away on such pitches, and that’s what England did. Winning the toss and batting first also played a big role. Yasir was less effective as you would expected on a first-day pitch. But the conditions helped the England batsmen in their use of the crease; playing a lot more off the back foot. The bounce was a lot more consistent. It wasn’t keeping low at all. So the batsmen, Root most of all, could play Yasir off the pitch. But Yasir is an excellent bowler, so it’s not as easy as it sounds. The batsmen still had to do the job.

Mohammad Amir bowled well, but was not adequately supported by the fielders. © Getty Images

Mohammad Amir bowled well, but was not adequately supported by the fielders. © Getty Images

I think having Anderson back makes a huge difference. He is the leader of the attack. The other bowlers look up to him. Having Anderson around gives them a lift straightaway. He is a match-winner; he has been for a long time. He was tremendous, as were Stokes and Woakes. And having Stokes in the team means that the batting goes much deeper for England.

As for Woakes, he has 18 wickets from two Tests now, and that’s a remarkable achievement. I can see that he has improved a great deal over the last year or so. Watching him from where I was sitting in the commentary box, I could see he is a lot stronger physically, and he is quicker than he used to be too, and has developed more variations in his bowling. He now moves the ball both ways, especially away from the right-hander, very well. At pace. Control, pace, movement and variety – what else could you ask for? He has all the right attributes to be a successful fast bowler.

Watching Woakes, I could see he is a lot stronger physically, and he is quicker than he used to be too, and has developed more variations in his bowling. He now moves the ball both ways, especially away from the right-hander, very well. At pace. Control, pace, movement and variety – what else could you ask for? He has all the right attributes to be a successful fast bowler.

When it comes to the Pakistan pacers, Mohammad Amir bowled well. But they have been dropping so many catches. Fast bowlers need fielders; they need a good slip cordon. People talk about the West Indies team that I played in with the four fast bowlers, but we still needed the support of our fielders, especially the slip cordon, and we certainly got it.

But, while Amir has been good, Wahab Riaz hasn’t bowled as well as I expected him to. He has been disappointing. And Rahat Ali was quite ineffective in the second Test. I think that was down to all the talk about him running on the danger area at Lord’s, and the umpires keeping a close look at proceedings. He ended up bowling too wide on the crease, the ball did less, and hence his ineffectiveness. If I was his captain, and I made this point during commentary on Sky, I would have told him for forget all the talk and bowl as normal as possible. On the odd occasion, he might get on the danger area, but it takes two warnings, and then if he transgresses again the third time, he would be taken out of the attack. But that would be a long process unless he just couldn’t get off the pitch at all after delivering, and that didn’t seem the case at Lord’s. By the time he went through that entire process, he could have done his job of taking a couple of wickets or more.

Pakistan missed a trick there, they got intimidated by all the talk.

Saying all that, I had England down as favourites before the series started. They have an excellent team, and they are playing at home, where they have a great recent record. I was pleasantly surprised with the way Pakistan played in the first Test, but in these conditions, you have to put the hosts ahead for the next two Tests as well. However, if the Pakistani batsmen show greater commitment, they can still put up a competitive show.