Trescothick a true leader as Pakistan mount fightback

Pakistan 274 & 125-2 England 418
Click to follow
The Independent Online

On the opening day of the three-Test series his astute leadership helped England to restrict Pakistan to a first-innings total of 274, while on the second and third day a superb 193 helped to put his side in a powerful position. Trescothick even took the catches which gave England their two wickets yesterday afternoon as Pakistan forced their way back into the Test.

Trescothick, however, cannot be expected to do it all on his own, and he will need greater support from his team-mates during the remainder of the match if England are to capitalise on their early dominance.

The third day of the Test was very much Pakistan's. England's collapse from 251 for 2 to 418 all out was not as calamitous as that of the hosts - who lost 9 for 113 - but the 144-run lead was some way short of the 250 Trescothick was looking for at the end of day two. England's advantage had been reduced to 19 when bad light once again brought an early end to proceedings, and this morning's session is now set to have a huge influence on the outcome of the match.

England's hold on the game would have been tenuous had Andrew Flintoff not taken the wicket of Younis Khan in the penultimate over of the day. Younis was in wonderful touch during his two hours at the crease. He struck the ball crisply and fearlessly from the moment he took guard, and the partnership with Salman Butt was beginning to look ominous before he lost his wicket attempting to reach 50 before the close.

England, whose bowling lacked the discipline of the first innings, had been reduced to setting defensive fields and aiming wide of off-stump when Younis tried to run the ball down to third man. Yet all he managed to do was guide it into the safe hands of Trescothick, England's solitary catcher, fielding at fine gully.

Trescothick's first catch came when a Stephen Harmison delivery found the outside edge of Shoaib Malik's bat and flew to first slip. Malik is a fine batsman but it is clear he is not a natural opener. Pakistan do not have a settled opening pair and Malik, who enjoys playing shots and normally bats in the middle-order, is only trying to help out.

Matthew Hoggard, England's unbeaten nightwatchman, was trying to play a similar role for his side before Shoaib Akhtar quickly accounted for him with a 90mph thunderbolt.

Views on the wisdom of using nightwatchmen vary. Steve Waugh, the former Australian captain, refused to employ them because he felt they were a negative tactic, and the tail-ender used to get in the way of a recognised batsman. Most captains - who happen to be batsmen - use them yet it would not be hard to work out which policy most nightwatchmen would prefer their leader to use.

On this occasion England sent in Hoggard - with a highest score of 38 and a Test batting average of 8.6 - to face Akhtar, the most feared fast bowler in the world. The belief is that he would have a better chance of keeping his wicket intact than Kevin Pietersen, the Ashes star who posted a brilliant 158 at the Oval and averages 52.5. Madness.

Hoggard's noble gesture was wasted by Pietersen who edged the seventh ball he faced, a googly from Danish Kaneria, on to his pad and was caught at short-leg. It was Pietersen's fifth failure on tour and he has now scored just 21 runs in five innings here. The run of low scores will lead to suggestions that last summer's success has gone to his head.

These accusations would be harsh, and Pietersen highlighted his commitment with a brilliant piece of fielding to save a boundary. In the act of diving, however, he injured his right elbow and spent the remainder of the day off the field.

Flintoff provided Tres-cothick with company for 100 minutes but this was not one of his finest innings. He hacked and carved his way to 45 while his partner continued to bat beautifully and the pair added 93 valuable runs.

There was never a feel of permanence about Flintoff's batting and it surprised nobody when he toed a heave at Akhtar to deepish mid-wicket. It was a horrible end to a poor innings.

Trescothick was by now beginning to tire. He was dropped on 179 by Naved-ul-Hasan, Pakistan's 12th man, who was fielding for the injured Mohammad Yousuf, and the two runs he collected took him to his second-highest score in Test cricket. But with a second double-hundred just seven runs away he nibbled at a ball from Shabbir Ahmed and was caught by the wicketkeeper.

Trescothick looked disappointed, but his eight-hour vigil allowed him to post the highest score by an England captain since Graham Gooch struck 333 against India at Lord's in 1991. Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles lost their wickets to Shabbir, the pick of Pakistan's bowlers.