England lose patience with Flintoff

Marcus Trescothick, the find of the recent one-day tournament, has been given the chance to emulate his success at Test level. But if that move was widely expected, the absence of Andrew Flintoff shows that the selectors' patience is not limitless when it comes to converting potential into thealtogether more tangible currency of runs and wickets.

Marcus Trescothick, the find of the recent one-day tournament, has been given the chance to emulate his success at Test level. But if that move was widely expected, the absence of Andrew Flintoff shows that the selectors' patience is not limitless when it comes to converting potential into thealtogether more tangible currency of runs and wickets.

The step-up in intensity has caused many to stumble and Trescothick is aware of the different challenges that face him in the third Test at Old Trafford, most notably the return of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, refreshed after their absence from the recent NatWest series.

"It's going to be a little bit different playing Test cricket," said Trescothick, after hearing of his selection yesterday. "But I feel I've been playing well for England in the one-dayers and also for Somerset, so hopefully I can carry that on."

He will not want for experience at the other end, and while the Somerset man ponders his debut, Michael Atherton, along with Alec Stewart, will be notching up his 100th Test cap in front of his home crowd.

"It will be nice to partner Athers in his 100th Test," added Trescothick. "You can only learn from batting with someone like him who has got so much expertise at this level."

Trescothick, who according to his county coach, Dermot Reeve, has gone this season from being a "big kid to a man," may not need too much advice. After ambling into international cricket, he appears to have taken to it at a stroke, something Flintoff, after his big billing, has struggled to do.

One problem, is that Flintoff's back injury - which prevents him from bowling, but curiously, not batting - appears to have removed a safety valve which as a result has made him vulnerable. Indeed, on the evidence of his career so far, he is not yet a good enough batsman to hold down a specialist spot, which is why Craig White retains the all-rounder's role he filled at Lord's three weeks ago.

The state of the pitch will probably be the deciding factor in whether White plays or not. A bowler who can get the ball to reverse swing when it is scuffed up, he will be in his element if the pitch is bare, but hard. If it is bare, but dry, Robert Croft, picked in front of Ashley Giles, is likely to be preferred.

Announcing the team yesterday, David Graveney and his panel also included Graham Thorpe, who has not played in a Test since last August. His return, for his 58th match, after only a modest upturn in form, is a clear sign that England recognise the vital importance of this next Test, and are bolstering their batting with experience. Mind you, unless they play seven batsmen, it will between him and Graeme Hick for the final batting spot.

One player's promotion is another's disappointment and after a short-lived experiment, Mark Ramprakash has been jettisoned as opener, a position that he was never going tooccupy easily on sporty surfaces against Ambrose and Walsh.

Gone too, from the winning team that played in the last Test, is Nick Knight, though the batsman can count himself unlucky after cracking a finger at slip during the last Test, an injury that ironically gave Trescothick his chance to impress.

In a break from convention, the squad has been picked a week earlier, so that the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, can decide who needs to play in the next round of County Championship matches that start this Friday. Perversely, those players who most need time in the middle, like Nasser Hussain and Thorpe, have only a couple of one-day games in which to prepare for the return to five-day cricket because their counties, Essex and Surrey respectively, have no match at the weekend.

Arguably the biggest of those Championship games, is the Roses match at Headingley. This ancient grudge game, could see Yorkshire without White, Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard and Darren Gough, and Lancashire without Atherton, should Fletcher decide to risk the wrath of curmudgeonly old men in flat caps and withdraw them all.

Tactically, there is no need to give players a break for the sake of it, though someone like Gough would probably benefit from putting his feet up for a week. For that reason, Fletcher must put country before the nostalgia of a bygone era and rest all those he feels are in need of a break.

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