Atherton sweeps past run milestone

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The Independent Online

The openers, Michael Atherton and Marcus Trescothick, reflected with pride on the handsome start they gave England on the first day of the Test series against Pakistan. The pair put on 134 for the first wicket. But after both fell to poorly executed sweep shots off the bowling of the off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, England failed to make the most of their impressive platform and closed on 195 for 4 in Lahore.

The openers, Michael Atherton and Marcus Trescothick, reflected with pride on the handsome start they gave England on the first day of the Test series against Pakistan. The pair put on 134 for the first wicket. But after both fell to poorly executed sweep shots off the bowling of the off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, England failed to make the most of their impressive platform and closed on 195 for 4 in Lahore.

As one of the few players in England's squad to have played a Test on the sub-continent, Atherton's influence was crucial during the early stages. A solid and positive start was crucial if the touring side were going to be able to compete on a surface designed for Pakistan's spinners.

He kept the scoreboard going effectively at the start as Trescothick began nervously, and his experience showed after he had reached his half-century when he adopted a more cautious approach as Pakistan dropped their field back.

Atherton's 73 made him the sixth player in England's Test history to top 7,000 runs, while Trescothick's 71 saw him take another step towards establishing himself permanently in the international arena.

Both had plenty to be pleased about, and Atherton is especially happy with an opening partnership that has now topped 100 in two successive Tests. He said: "The partnership is going well. It is a left and right-hand combination, of course, and Marcus has done well since he has played for England. A couple of century partnerships in two Tests is the way to go."

Atherton is satisfied with his own form, too. "I felt in pretty good form most of last summer, and although I have not had a score on tour so far, I do feel I have been batting very well," he said.

He and Trescothick repelled a quality spin attack on a slow turning wicket until their misjudgements against Saqlain - and Atherton believes England showed yesterday that they can bat well against slow bowling. "In England we have not really faced too much spin in the last year. It is a different way of playing cricket, and concentration is the key," he said.

Trescothick, meanwhile, thinks he has something to prove to himself and the selectors despite another good showing. "I am still settling in. But now I am looking to go on to that next stage. I have had a couple of good 50s - but now I would like to go on to some of the big scores," he said. "Today was always going to be hard work. We both faced 190 balls; we did not score very quickly, and it was tough."

Trescothick also conceded the day might have ended better for England after his and Atherton's stand. "With the way we got off to that start, it was fantastic. You look to try to lose as few wickets as you can through the last two sessions. We lost a couple, but that happens sometimes. They are good bowlers and they bowled good balls."

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