Once again the principles of consistency which Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, has preached in the last six years have given England a winning position in a Test, writes Ted Corbett in Multan. When captain Michael Vaughan was injured five days before the first match against Pakistan, Fletcher nominated Marcus Trescothick, the unofficial vice-captain, to take charge although there were plenty of voices calling for Andrew Flintoff, the hero of the moment to be given the job. Trescothick was so worried about standing in for Vaughan when it seemed he had not chance of a permanent promotion that he rang his wife Haley at home in Somerset to ask her advice. She clearly told him to go for it; and enjoy himself while he had the chance.
On Sunday in dusty Multan he could be seen grinning happily as he slapped the Pakistan bowling around. Seventy yards away in the pavilion there were shots of the Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer clearly angry at the way his young stars were being pressurised by Trescothick’s big bat. The Somerset lad, known as Banger across the cricket village, had every reason to smile. His undefeated 13th century of his career left England just 21 runs behind the Pakistan total of 274 and with three days to play an England victory can only be rubbed out by the winter rains which are due in the Punjab at any time.
Trescothick also established a firm grip on second place in the calendar year run race with 1162 runs and two more Tests to play. So has Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, who leads the 2005 table with 1216 runs. Trescothick also has an eye on the 1481 runs scored by Vaughan in 2002.
Ian Bell, who made a sturdy 71 out of the second wicket stand of 180 with Trescothick, said: “It was a pleasure batting with him. I enjoyed myself thoroughly from the other end and I am glad I was able to stick around long enough to take our score close to a lead.”
Trescothick even made time to greet 23-year-old Bell as he arrived at the crease after Andrew Strauss had been dismissed for nine and give him a friendly hug. That, and a few easy half-volleys set Bell on his way in an innings being watched closely by those who think he has no future in Test cricket.
By tonight England will expect to have an even firmer grip on the game. They held back Kevin Pietersen and Flintoff, the two big hitters, who can now show off their strokes against an attack that looked demoralised at times. Flintoff may have missed out on the captaincy role he wants but he proved the might of his bowling by taking 4 for 68 as Pakistan lost their last four wickets for 30 in less than an hour. He may even have struck the most important blow of the series when he had the immaculate Inzamam-ul-Haq caught at slip, his only mistake in two and a half hours of batting that threatened to stop the England bandwagon on its headlong journey.