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Goodbye to Tres

Marcus Trescothick

In early May 1993 Marcus Trescothick made his First Class debut for Somerset. He was just 17 and was selected to open the batting with the prodigiously talented Mark Lathwell, a relative veteran at 21. Later that summer Lathwell would play in two Ashes Tests, but he never fulfilled his early promise and left the game before he turned 30.

Back in May 1993 there was no suggestion that Trescothick would go on to emulate Lathwell let alone anything more. He scored 1 and 3 against Lancashire, courtesy of a couple of snicks through the slips, dismissed in each innings by England’s Phil DeFreitas. It is a match that, as a Lancastrian, I recall quite well. The Red Rose needed a mere 88 in the fourth innings to win, but thanks to a career best 9-32 from Andy Caddick they failed by 15 runs.

For Somerset’s next match, which he would otherwise have played in, Trescothick was out after an injury sustained in a club match. He did make the first team twice more that season, but scores of 6,0,4 and 0 meant he ended the summer at the bottom of the Somerset averages, with an ignominious 2.66. His three List A appearances were a little more successful, but all in all it was not an auspicious start.

In 1994 Trescothick again made the side against Lancashire in May. He scored 7 and 0 in an innings defeat. Somerset stuck with him though and he played in the next game against Hampshire. His life flashed before him on two when, facing West Indian paceman Winston Benjamin, he popped up a straightforward catch to Tony Middleton at short leg. Luck was on Trescothick’s side however as Middleton spilled the chance. As Trescothick wrote in his autobiography I could have kissed him. He went on to make 81 and never looked back. At the end of 1994 only county captain Andy Hayhurst headed him in the county averages.

In its 1994 edition Wisden chose not to make mention of Trescothick’s disastrous start, but waxed lyrical the following year in describing him as the discovery of the year. A huge future was predicted, but then Trescothick’s career stalled, and not just for a single season. In 1995 and 1997 his performances were woeful, and although a little better in 1996 and 1998 he remained inconsistent and certainly was not shaping up as a future England player.

What was the problem? Throughout his life Trescothick had found run scoring easy. Physically he was an early developer and he dominated throughout the age groups without having to work too hard on his technique. As a result there were deficiencies, mainly as a result of limited footwork and a desire to hammer everything outside the off stump. The wily old pros on the county circuit quickly worked out that Trescothick could resist anything except temptation, and there were many avoidable dismissals.

By 1999 Trescothick had curbed some of the excesses and had a better summer culminating in September in a dominant innings of 167 out of 256 scored whilst he was at the wicket. The significance of the innings, against Glamorgan, was that the watching Glamorgan coach was Duncan Fletcher, due to take over the helm of the England team a few days later. Fletcher spoke to his Somerset counterpart, Dermot Reeve, who gave Trescothick’s shot selection a less than enthusiastic reference. Fletcher’s reaction, thankfully, was I could not believe it, because he should just have been put at the top of the order and told to get on with it.

It would be the following April before Trescothick and Fletcher ever spoke, but Fletcher made sure that Trescothick was selected for the England A tour of Bangladesh and New Zealand that winter. His performances on the trip were patchy, and the party’s manager, Mike Gatting, was little more enthusiastic about Trescothick in his reports to Fletcher than Reeve had been. Again however Fletcher stuck to his guns and selected Trescothick for the first time in an ODI against Zimbabwe in July 2000. He scored 79 in a defeat which, without his century partnership with Graeme Hick, would have been of embarrassing proportions.

Within four weeks Trescothick was making his Test debut against a West Indies side whose attack was still led by a couple of true greats, Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose. The selectors had been trying Mark Ramprakash as Mike Atherton’s opening partner, but dropped him after the second Test. Trescothick’s 66 and 38* helped England to a draw, and the opener’s job was filled for the next six years.

That six year period brought Trescothick 76 Test caps and he also appeared in 123 ODIs and, in the format’s earliest days, three successful T20 Internationals. His Test career ended with an average of 43.79 and 14 centuries. In ODIs there were a dozen centuries and an average of 37.37. His strike rate was 85. All things considered the finest of those innings is certainly the 180 against South Africa that James Mettyear so vividly reconstructs in the accompanying extract from Masterly Batting, but for most the best memories of Trescothick at the crease come from the heady days of the Ashes 2005, and his 90 on the first morning of the Edgbaston Test, as well as the several other significant contributions he made to that magical summer.

It is impossible to look at Trescothick’s international record without wondering what might have been. The depressive illness which so affected him on tour and brought about that early retirement from the international game must have had a negative impact on those 76 matches and, impressive though the figures are how much better might they have been? And what sort of records might have been set had Trescothick played at the top, as he might well have, for another decade? Trescothick’s record is, as it stands, that of a very good batsman, but statistics don’t always tell the whole truth, and at his peak Trescothick was up there with the very best.

The story of Trescothick’s battle with his demons is compellingly told in his 2008 autobiography, Coming Back to Me, but despite the hopes that lingered amongst most of us for many years there was never any suggestion from Trescothick that he might feel able to reverse his decision. His absence from the international stage was all the more frustrating because of the way he continued his First Class career. After a mediocre 2006, when his demons were at their worst, Trescothick came back with a vengeance in 2007 and for the next five seasons was a dominant force in English county cricket. In 2009 he was the highest run scorer in the country with 1,817 and fifth in the averages at 75.70. Two years later he topped the runs table again with 1,673 and this time 79.33 gave him the second best average.

Ankle surgery meant that Trescothick missed a large chunk of the 2012 summer and in 2013, although he was able to play a full season, he missed his thousand runs and failed to reach three figures even once. It was tempting to conclude that anno domino had caught up with him, but those of us who thought that were proved wrong as he then enjoyed three more summers of rich pickings before, as he passed his fortieth birthday, the big scores began to prove more elusive.

Thus far 2019 has been a disappointment for Trescothick and his legion of fans, hence undoubtedly his decision to call time on his career at the end of this summer. Let us hope that there is time left for at least one more big score from the Trescothick blade and, as a man whose horse is currently in the second division, nothing would please me more than to see his swan song coincide with the Championship pennant flying, for the first time, over the County Ground at Taunton.

 

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