Trescothick oozes confidence as he steps in to lead England

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Replacing Vaughan, the captain who ended 18 years of Ashes misery, will be a tough task for Trescothick. Pakistan have an imposing record at home and England have won only two of the 21 Test matches they have played here. Yet Trescothick does not appear overawed.

"I will be my own man," he said confidently. "I will talk to Duncan Fletcher and Michael Vaughan as much as I can to get advice, but I will still captain the side as I see fit. There is only so much advice they can give me in between sessions and at the close of play. We have a lot of experience on the pitch and I will be talking to guys like Andrew Strauss, Andrew Flintoff and Ashley Giles, as Michael does when he is out there.

"I am not daunted about filling Michael's position. I have nothing to prove. I am his unofficial right-hand man and we feed off each other. We have different styles and different ways of doing things, but it is up to me to lead the team in the best way possible and to do the right things at the right time on the pitch."

Trescothick accepts that his chance of eventually becoming England captain has gone. Yet the possibility of leading them to a seventh successive series win is one that excites him.

"We don't know about Michael at the moment," he said. "He has made a big recovery in the last couple of days, which is encouraging. Yet one of the reasons why I accepted the offer to captain was the fact that it could be for the rest of the series. It was very exciting to think that I would be in charge for a few weeks."

The scenes at the Oval in September will seem like a distant memory when Trescothick leads England out at the impressive new Multan Cricket Stadium. The ground sits like an oasis among the dust and dirt of this bustling Punjab city, but sadly very few of the 27,000 seats will be occupied. It is one-day cricket that fills stadiums in Asia and England will have to find their inspiration from within.

The tourists' form before the Test has been unconvincing, but the batsmen should find the pitch to their liking. Eighteen months ago, in the last Test played here, Virender Sehwag scored 309 as India amassed 675 for 5. Pakistan lost the match by an innings and 52 runs, with Irfan Pathan and Anil Kumble sharing 16 wickets.

England will hope that the pressure of captaincy does not affect Trescothick's batting because his opening partnerships with Strauss have been one of England's strengths. And without Vaughan at three the pair are under even greater pressure to protect an inexperienced middle order.

England's bowlers look set for five hard days. The current climate in Multan - 25 to 27 degrees Celsius - is ideal for cricket, but a lush green outfield and the Kookaburra ball will reduce the chances of Flintoff and co reverse-swinging the ball. Flintoff bowled magnificently at practice yesterday and he will be England's spearhead.

England will wait until tomorrow morning before deciding on their final XI, but Shaun Udal can expect to make his Test debut. The practice nets which lie adjacent to, and look very similar to the surface they will play on, have offered the spinners assistance, and the groundsman stated that the pitch would turn for bowlers who know how to spin it.

The Pakistan team, in Danish Kaneria and Mushtaq Ahmed, have two bowlers who know how to spin the ball, but the hosts are unlikely to play both against England. The slow bowlers will enjoy the huge boundaries the ground offers them. The MCS is not like Edgbaston, where a mishit goes for six. Batsmen here will have to give the ball a real clout and this will make Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen think twice about hitting over the top.

Pakistan, like England, have a squad of 16 to pick from and Bob Woolmer, the coach, feels that his side are spoilt for choice.

"Selection is going to be a nightmare for us," he said. "We have too many options available for the Test and we now have to sit down and work out the best combination. I hope the pitch takes sharp turn, because there is no batsman who can play sharp turn comfortably, especially against a wrist spinner."

Competition for fast bowling positions will be fierce too with Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Naved-ul-Hasan, and Shabbir Ahmed challenging for three spots. Shoaib, the world's fastest bowler, has been out of favour recently, but he would be the man to hit England with while they are vulnerable.

The nature of the pitches here, along with the early sunsets, which tend to prevent 90 overs being played each day, has given Pakistan the reputation of being draw specialists. This is no longer the case. Pakistan may have played only 13 home Test matches since England last visited here five years ago, but 12 of them have produced results.

England (probable): M E Trescothick (capt), A J Strauss, I Bell, K Pietersen, P D Collingwood, A Flintoff, G O Jones (wk), A F Giles, S Udal, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison.

Pakistan (probable): Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Shoaib Malik, Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Sami, Shoaib Akhtar, Danish Kaneria.

Umpires: B Bowden (NZ) and S Taufel (Aus).

Where the Test will be won and lost

THE OPENERS

During the Ashes, Australia fancied their chances of bowling England out cheaply if they could take an early wicket, and without Michael Vaughan, England's middle order is inexperienced. Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood have only 16 Test caps between them and they need protecting from the new ball and fresh bowlers. This puts extra responsibility on Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss. Pakistan, in contrast, have an established middle order but are struggling to find a settled pair of openers. Bob Woolmer's side have used seven different opening combinations in the past eight Tests and England will be hoping to take advantage of this vulnerable area.

THE FLINTOFF FACTOR

Andrew Flintoff was the inspiration behind England's success during the summer. When England were down he picked them up, and when they were in trouble he produced something special. But can he keep doing it? England obviously hope so, but he will be the player Pakistan want to control. Their fast bowlers will look to get after Flintoff when he is batting, as the South Africans successfully did last winter, and see him off when he is bowling. He will need support from the other bowlers or he will be over-bowled. This would reduce his effectiveness and increase the chance of injury. But if he can continue his form of the summer, Pakistan will find it very hard to control him.

WRIST SPIN v FINGER SPIN

Shane Warne's continued success highlights how devastating wrist spin can be, and in Danish Kaneria and Mushtaq Ahmed Pakistan possess two high-quality leggies. Leg spin is the hardest art in cricket to perfect, but if it is bowled well it wins matches. English cricket has produced very few good leg spinners - Doug Wright and Johnny Wardle are the only two to have taken more than 100 Test wickets. To compete in the modern game spinners need to threaten both edges of a bat or have some mystery about them. Ashley Giles and Shaun Udal are good orthodox finger spinners, but they have neither. Giles has had success through bowling over the wicket and into the rough but he will be expected to perform a more attacking role here. The pitches will offer them help but will they cause the same problems as Pakistan's twiddlers?

STAYING HEALTHY

There will be no all-night benders here, but each morning the England management will nervously look around the breakfast table. Illness is an occupational hazard when you tour the sub-continent. The spicy food, and the fact that it may have been washed in unbottled water, as well as the pollution and dust all take their toll. England's players are doing all they can to remain healthy but there is the constant risk of someone picking up something and several have had problems already. The timing of illnesses could prove vital. If a player goes down with a stomach bug or a throat infection at the wrong time there is very little the medics can do.

WEATHER WATCH

The forecast is for good weather over the five days. Temperatures will be around 25C and the days will be sunny. The light, however, fades rapidly in this part of the world and a full day's play every day is unlikely.

PITCH WATCH

Because of the early start each day (9.30am) there will be a little dew on the pitch to help the seamers in the first hour. The pitch will lack pace and bounce and being on the sub-continent is bound to favour spin as the match progresses.

Comments