Trescothick thunder sets up England win

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England 323-7 Governor's XI 242: England win by 81 runs

England 323-7 Governor's XI 242: England win by 81 runs

England safely negotiated their opening match in Pakistan here last night. The victory by 81 runs seemed routine enough, but nothing is ever quite so straightforward with this side at the start of their trips away. The tourist's total was formidable but there was an alarming period when it also looked vulnerable.

Defeat to the Governor's XI, a side containing seven internationals, would have been no disgrace but nor would it have delivered an immediate fillip to morale for the burdensome task ahead. In the event, if there were red faces they were to be found only on those foolish enough not to increase the factor of their sun block in the searing heat.

For three-quarters of its length, the second match under the floodlights of the National Stadium was dominated by the bat. Marcus Trescothick made his first hundred for England, from 93 balls. It was a thunderous affair with three sixes and 12 fours and if that hardly suggested that there was an exhibition of slouching on view, it was slightly overshadowed by a century in reply from Saleem Elahi. His 120 took only 103 balls, embodied the style of a man who has been brought up on pitches tailored solely for batting and all but one of his 16 boundaries - not including his three sixes - were things of pure beauty.

Trescothick always looked to hit, and hit hard, after England won the toss. The solidity and authority of his pulling and straight driving was a flat-track bully at his zenith. This is not to be derogatory. He recognised early the quality of the bowling and fielding did not match the quality of the pitch, was aware of the importance of the first 15 overs and duly met his obligations.

The original flat-track bully, Graeme Hick, for whom the term was intended as a derisive super kick, must have liked what he saw. By way of confirming his reputation he followed the Somerset left-hander to the crease and was equally dismissive. If anything, naturally, he hit harder and longer in more areas and his last 32 runs after reaching his half-century came in 15 balls. Hick will never please some of his more misguidedly strident critics, but still nobody in the England team can dispatch bowlers quite so effectively.

It is a mystery that Hick, one of the most proficient practitioners in the world at No 3 - where he has scored most of his 3,639 international one-day runs - should be batting at No 4 for England. Except that the No 3 position is occupied by the captain, Nasser Hussain. While he did not make a bad fist of his innings yesterday his punches through the covers were mere flicks, compared to the huge haymakers being thrown elsewhere, and on the pitches to be encountered on this subcontinental journey, heavy-hitters are sure to be crucial at the start of innings. Still, it should be recorded that the captain shared a stand of 140 for the third wicket and he is too skilful a player not to have learnt something about how to play on these pitches.

England's enormous total of 323 - it will seem average in a week's time - was obviously quite enough. Governor's XIs anywhere do not chase quite so many. This well-founded theory was given further credence with the second ball of their innings when Shoaib Malik rushed at one which bounced from Andrew Caddick and Alec Stewart took a catch low to his right.

The obvious pinch-hitting dangerman was gone. And fortunately for England this brought Saleem to the wicket. What an exhibition he gave. It was neither worse not better in many ways than those of the high-scoring English pair, just different. Here was a man at home, the brother of two other first-class cricketers. His chief assets are flexible wrists, Swiss watch-style timing, abundant power and you do not need many more.

Saleem had scored a high quality hundred on his one-day international for Pakistan against Sri Lanka but these days is hardly on the fringes of the team. With the score on 170 for 1 in the 30th over the Governor's team were probably favourites. Suddenly they blew it. Hussain brought on the slower bowlers and also initiated the return of Darren Gough and the Pakistani batsmen were suddenly confused. Hick dismissed both Saleem and Asim Kamal, Gough ensnared another two with balls of good length and four wickets had fallen for just 12 runs in four overs. England had started well.