Trescothick ton saves England

Marcus Trescothick stood firm at the top of the English batting order come the close of the first day’s play against a Pakistan Cricket Board Patron’s XI at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.

In a match where both sides named fourteen players, with eleven to bat and eleven to field, all eyes were on the English middle order batsmen as they fought for places in Duncan Fletcher’s plans for the First Test that begins in Lahore on Saturday, November 12. When England won the toss and opted for first use of the track, the stage seemed set for Ian Bell and Geraint Jones to make their cases for retention, and Alex Loudon, Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior to forward their own credentials.

All eyes may have been on these men, but there was little for even the sharpest senses of vision to see as the England top order meekly surrendered to a pair of unheralded medium pacers. On a wicket lacking in life but offering lateral movement, 20-year-old left armer Najaf Shah and former Scotland overseas player Yasir Arafat combined to remove five of the English top seven.

Andrew Strauss was first to fall to Najaf, offering no stroke and losing his off stump, before captain Michael Vaughan – under the weather with an ear infection – followed LBW as the left-armer brought one back into him. At 41-2, England’s situation was unsteady, but soon after it became distinctly perilous.

Yasir Ali enticed Kevin Pietersen, promoted to four above Ian Bell, to skew his eleventh ball to Asim Kamal in the gully before Yasir got in on the act. Paul Collingwood was first to fall, under-edging an overly ambitious pull stroke onto his stumps before Bell and Geraint Jones followed in quick succession, their defensive strokes proving insufficient to the task of preventing straight balls from knocking back their wicket.

Ashley Giles became the second Englishman after Trescothick to reach double figures as he accumulated a bright 30 before becoming leg-spinner Imran Tahir’s only victim, whilst Shaun Udal provided solid support at number nine to allow Trescothick to slowly piece the England total together. Eschewing the free strokeplay of the Ashes summer, Trescothick played a more patient role as he compensated for the failures of his team-mates.

Udal fell shortly before tea, Najaf’s third scalp of the day, but reserve wicketkeeper Matthew Prior settled alongside Trescothick as England advanced towards respectability. The Sussex man struck eight fours as he reached a crucial half-century, while Trescothick progressed serenely through the gears to record three figures, even striking two sixes as the intensity of the situation lifted.

Yasir returned towards the close of play to collect Prior’s wicket for a round fifty, the tenth-wicket stand broken at 118, before Alex Loudon resisted thirty balls until the early close of play to see England onto 256 for 9, Marcus Trescothick unbeaten and unbowed on 124, including 16 boundaries alongside the two maximums in an innings consisting of 209 balls.

A slower pace than any of his Ashes contributions, but just as important to the team total, the Somerset man’s knock stood out as England retreated to their hotel, the different conditions and nature of play firmly etched in their middle order’s minds. As for the hero of the day, Trescothick wasn’t too concerned.

“We’re just going to have to adapt. I think we are looking at scoring at three an over rather than four, which we do in England. If we grind out runs and get big first innings scores, we will give ourselves every chance of doing well.”

England 256-9
Marcus Trescothick 124*, Matthew Prior 50
Yasir Arafat 4-45, Najaf Shah 3-58

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