Fleming gives Trescothick a lesson in spin

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Captaincy can be a thankless task. The two captains on view at Lord's in this first Test of the summer, Marcus Trescothick in his first Test in charge, and the vastly experienced Stephen Fleming, have both had plenty to scratch their heads about. On the first two days the pitch was as bland as could be, which made life something of a doddle for batsmen and underlined the eternal truth that the majority of captains are only as good as the bowlers they have at their disposal.

Fleming is generally considered to be the best captain around at the moment, but even so he has been unable to make much of an impact on this match so far. When England began their first innings on Friday he marched resolutely and undemonstrably from first slip at one end to first slip at the other. He did not give the impression of being the puppet master who was constantly pulling the strings. Given the conditions, even Mike Brearley would have had his work cut out.

Trescothick also favoured the laissez-faire approach to the job, not surprising considering this was his first Test outing as England's captain. It is impossible to tell how much he was following instructions from the dressing-room, but he gave the impression of being an unimaginative boss. He kept his seam bowlers going for seven or eight over spells and made bowling changes on the hour and by the hour.

Although Ashley Giles's orthodox left-arm spin was inevitably going to be of only limited use, he did not throw him the ball on Thursday until the game was 71 overs old and New Zealand were 210 for 4 By then Mark Richardson and Jacob Oram were well set and they treated Giles with disdain, his five overs costing 32 runs.

One did not have to be a genius to realise that it would have been more sensible to give him an over or two much earlier to see if he could find any spin and indeed to give him a chance when the batsmen were less settled than they were when he eventually came on. Given the nature of the pitch on the first day, Giles's bowling was never likely to be much of an asset, but using him as he did, Trescothick effectively neutered him.

His field placings also belonged to the safety-first school. Apart from occasionally bringing Mark Butcher in to fourth slip, he never made an attempt to attack even the new batsmen. Nor did he try and cause problems by positioning the odd fielder in an unlikely position in order to try and make the batsmen wonder what was going on and perhaps lose concentration as they tried to come up with the answer.

It was perhaps not surprising that Trescothick erred on the side of safety, but it was a surprise that the experienced Fleming was prepared to let things drift as he did towards the end of the second day. For all that, Fleming taught Trescothick a lesson in his handling of his left-arm spinner, Daniel Vettori, whom he brought on early and ensured that he became a significant factor in the New Zealand attack. On the third day when the pitch had a more variable bounce, Fleming was altogether busier.

But the first three days at Lord's were crying out for a wrist-spinner to bring some variety to the proceedings. With both captains endlessly alternating four seam bowlers it made for a boring sameness. This scenario so often afflicts contemporary cricket in England where the game seems increasingly in the grip of seam bowlers with long runs and a depressing similarity. It made one long for a good dose of Shane Warne, Murali, Anil Kumble or Saqlain Mushtaq and a captain hell-bent on trying to make something happen.