Masterful Trescothick leads from the front to put England in charge

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The Independent Online

Marcus Trescothick dispelled the second and final doubt about his ability as a batsman when he posted a magnificent unbeaten century to put England in a powerful position last night in the first Test against Pakistan. Trescothick, England's stand-in captain, dominated the second day's play here with an unbeaten 135 and had taken his side to within 21 runs of Pakistan's first innings total of 274 when bad light stopped play.

Trescothick rated his 13th Test hundred as the most satisfying of his career. "When you consider the context of the game, the way I played, the fact that I am captain, and the pressure we have been under in the last couple of weeks, it was probably my best hundred so far," he admitted. "I really played well today and enjoyed the way I played, but we still have a long way to go. It was a special innings and I was delighted when I got the hundred because I had worked hard and it was an important innings for the team."

Prior to the first Ashes Test in July Trescothick had a batting average of over 45, yet there were still many experts who questioned his ability to score runs against the finest bowlers in the world, or when abroad. Against Australia he averaged 43, proving that he does have the technique and temperament to succeed against the best, and yesterday's century, his fifth whilst touring with England, should finally shatter the illusion that he cannot perform when deprived of the comforts of home.

Trescothick gave Kamran Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, a very hard chance on 94, and survived a close call for lbw on 48, but these were the only two occasions when he looked troubled. In the past he has been guilty of throwing his wicket away by going after balls he could have left alone, but on this occasion he controlled his natural instincts and batted responsibly. Not once did he attempt to slog-sweep the spin of Danish Kaneria or Shoaib Malik over mid-wicket. Trescothick waited for the bad ball to come along and put it away.

There were still many strokes to admire during the five hours he spent under a hot sun. Shoaib Akhtar, the world's fastest bowler, ran in hard all day and regularly sent the ball down at more than 90 mph. But each time he erred he was clinically put away.

Trescothick has always been a good player of spin and Pakistan's twiddlers seldom looked like beating his broad bat. On a dry, slow pitch that is beginning to take spin, Kaneria was expected to be the main threat, yet he finished the day wicketless.

Trescothick reached fifty - three balls after surviving the close lbw call - when he struck Kaneria over long-off for six and moved to three figures by deftly sweeping the off-spin of Malik to fine leg for four. On seeing the ball hit the boundary rope he took off his helmet and continued running, with his arms out wide, towards the England dressing room who gave him a standing ovation. Even Michael Vaughan, who tentatively had a light jog on his injured right knee during the lunch interval, was up.

England's innings got off to a dreadful start when Andrew Strauss was trapped plum in front by an in-swinger from Mohammad Sami in the fourth over, but Trescothick received excellent support from Ian Bell. The pair batted with purpose and ran superbly between the wickets, claiming 15-20 runs that their opponents would not have dreamt of taking.

However, with the highest partnership by England in Pakistan - Bob Barber and Geoff Pullar put on 198 in Dhaka in 1961-62 - only 18 runs away Bell was caught at short-leg off the bowling of Malik. Television replays suggested the delivery should have been called a no-ball and had it been, Bell would have known that it was to be his day. He had already been bowled by a beautiful slower ball from Akhtar, but the fast bowler had put his left foot over the front line.

"Belly played particularly well," said Trescothick. "He was positive from the moment he got to the crease, which is the way he normally plays. During the Ashes he went into his shell a little bit because he was under pressure and he was finding it tough."

Bell was replaced by Paul Collingwood, but during the hour he batted Collingwood did little to suggest he was a better player than the man he was due to be selected ahead of.

Excellent England bowling had limited Pakistan to 244 for 6 on the opening day and they entered the second day hoping to dismiss their opponents for fewer than 300. Yet the final four Pakistan wickets added only 30 runs against a revitalised England pace attack.

The wickets were shared but it was the scalp of Inzamam-ul-Haq, who edged a good ball from Andrew Flintoff to second slip, that prevented the home side from posting a decent total. Flintoff, with 4 for 68, claimed the best figures but it was a team effort. "The bowlers were superb," said Trescothick. "You can set plans and the field but it is the bowlers who have to execute them."

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