England v Pakistan: Time to wrap it all up

Sometime today England should complete a deserved victory in the first Test.

It has been a superb performance based on the traditional foundations of a good first innings score backed up by disciplined bowling tailored to the specific conditions of ground, weather and pitch.

The size of the win, which is likely to be in the region of 200 runs, underlines the superiority of England's play and should lead on to defining series victory. If England allow Pakistan back into the series it will hint at weakness, the kind Australia will be relish this winter.

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That is not to say Pakistan will not compete at times. They will and should. In Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul they have three fine seam bowlers but the weaknesses are too obvious. The batting is as solid as Vince Cable's love of the Conservatives.

England need a proper examination though and at times they will receive one. How the players cope in those moments will be enlightening.

Yesterday the first to suffer was Steven Finn. His parsimonious spell the previous evening was forgotten as Gul thrillingly counterattacked him to take Pakistan past the follow-on. It was audacious batting with 30 runs off Finn in only nine balls but the bowler was partly culpable.

Bouncers need to be mean, not timid half-track offerings begging to be smacked. Two consecutive bumpers barely reached Gul's midriff and he swatted both into the stand.

His maiden first class and Test half-century gave Pakistan some much-needed impetus and he and Aamer continued it with the ball as they reduced England to 98-6. This was Pakistan, the world's most mercurial side at its brilliant best. If they had dismissed England for 130 or fewer the game was on. Anything around 300 would have offered them some hope.

None of England's batsman looked secure. Alastair Cook has failed to do the remedial work on his technique. Kevin Pietersen looked more convincing but is suffering from hubris. He needs time at the wicket but refused opportunities for Middlesex or Hampshire second team before this Test and it was left to Matt Prior to ensure the England innings did not completely fail.

His century was a fine innings on a wearing pitch and while under pressure.

He understood the match situation better than anyone else though and set about a shrewd and calculated attack of the bowlers. As he assumed control the Pakistan team became deflated, almost resigned to defeat and so it was annoying that he and Steven Finn lingered so long over reaching his century. The bowlers wanted to attack the tired and dejected Pakistan top-order.

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When the declaration finally came James Anderson and Stuart Broad made immediate inroads, taking three wickets in seven overs.

It confirmed England's dominance but another half-an-hour could have seen Pakistan five or six wickets down.

To grumble though is to be churlish. If England can get Pietersen, Cook and Swann contributing – the off-spinner has had a rare subdued match – then they will overpower Pakistan and head for the winter with a magnificent chance to win the Ashes in Australia.