The England batsman who stood out the most, in the first part of the day here, was Marcus Trescothick who was conspicuous by his absence. As a result, there was a marked lack of authority by the early England batsmen at the start of their innings.
They were fortunate that Zaheer Khan was the only one of the Indian seamers to make the most of conditions that allowed him to swing the ball and find some movement off the seam. Michael Vaughan went in the second over and from the number of times tentative defensive strokes were beaten, two or three more wickets might have fallen in the first session.
If the Somerset opener had been there, Zaheer and Ashish Nehra would have suffered when they overpitched and, if in an attempt to compensate they had dropped too short, they would have been pulled and hooked. If a bowler knows that he is liable to be driven or pulled at any moment, it leaves him with a certain uneasiness.
This feeling is only increased when two or three such strokes find the boundary early on. In a sense, this is only proving the old maxim that attack is the best form of defence. If batsmen feel they only dare concentrate on defence, the psychological advantage stays with the bowler.
Trescothick first played for England in the one-day series against the West Indies in 2000 when Nick Knight was injured. He was an instant success, first with the limited-overs game and then with Test cricket. His forceful, but uncomplicated methods rapidly changed the rather more lacklustre affair the start of the England innings had become since the departure of Graham Gooch.
Trescothick is a commanding player and when he gets England off to his customary thumping start, it puts them ahead of the clock as a result of which the bowlers are left with more time to do their job. Also, and just as important, he provides wonderful entertainment which was noticeably absent yesterday morning.
Nasser Hussain showed all his terrier-like qualities as he fought, anxiously at first, and then with increasing fluency. In partnership with John Crawley, he swung the match back England's way. He is an admirable No 3 in the context of a Test, but he finds it uncommonly difficult to change his methods for the limited-over game which an innings like this might give him the confidence to accept.
Of course, it might have been the left-handed Trescothick and not Vaughan who got a good one that straightened and trapped him lbw on the crease early on. But if Trescothick had made a start, England would have been some way further on than they are at the end of the first day. His qualities were dramatically underlined by his absence.
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