Trescothick the wolf with a sheepish air

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The Independent Online

Marcus Trescothick might have been thinking that a second unbeaten match-wining hundred in a week would have been a good day's work.

That is, until 9.55 yesterday morning when he noticed that Michael Vaughan had hurt his back; 20 minutes before the start he was asked to take over as captain for a day. It was a great opportunity for a man whose confidence had been so damaged during the winter. How did he do? Magnificently mostly, but not quite all the time.

He scored that match-winning hundred, but he did more than that. A hiccup caused by the loss of three quick wickets called for something more than the accumulation of runs. What was suddenly required was a captain's innings. And that is what he provided, with a minimum of fuss. He played 40 balls prudently between scoring his 10th four and the 11th, which brought up his hundred. He played second fiddle to Andrew Flintoff and kind uncle to Jim Troughton.

Tresocthick was his familiar self, cutting, clubbing nurdling and playing and missing. In this form, he is a refreshing batsman to watch and a full house was exhilarated. No need for a Mexican Wave when Trescothick is swinging.

He clearly enjoyed it and was most pleased that he was able to finish the job not out. "It panned out to be a perfect game for me really," he said.

The flash and dash of the ravishing 200-run opening partnership was in stark contrast to England's performance in the field, which had deteriorated and eventually turned violent at the end when Darren Gough conceded 22 runs in the final over. Trescothick described the target as "challenging" but that was after he had met it. It was easy to forget that it had been a game of two halves, wasn't it Brian?

Eight months ago Trescothick was favourite to be the next England captain. Believe it or not, Michael Vaughan was intent on establishing his place in the team. The tables turned last winter when the contrast in their form exaggerated the difference in their personalities.

Vaughan relaxed and became the visible leader of the youth wing of the team. Trescothick retreated and his anxiety about his form was reflected a reluctance to communicate. Vaughan became the chosen one.

They sat together at a press conference after the extravagant seven-wicket win against Pakistan at The Oval 10 days ago. Trescothick was the hero but Vaughan was the conversationalist, making much of Trescothick's control of the strike. (You stole it, he said, turning it into a dressing room joke.) Trescothick said how pleased he was to rediscover his form. Not much else.

Vaughan is the active personality and Trescothick is the passive character of the two. And so it was yesterday when he took the field as England captain for only the second time in his career and the first since October 2001 in Zimbabwe.

He had an early chance to shine when South Africa were 94 for 3. Mark Boucher took an ill-considered run to mid- off where Trescothick was stationed 10 yards from the wicket, but when he shied he missed. Boucher' and Kallis had added 21. Their partnership went on to realise 111.

And there was a reluctance to attack. Ashley Giles was bowling left-arm over without threatening and South Africa went on to what could have been a winning total.

Here is a supreme paradox: a wonderful attacking batsman is an instinctively defensive captain. That is the reason why "Tres" is the vice-captain and not the captain. But no one in the dressing room was thinking that last night.