May 31, 2002

England take command as Trescothick shines

Marcus Trescothick has an unenviable record of finishing on the losing side whenever he has scored a century in international cricket. Even with a dramatic intervention from Muttiah Muralitharan after tea on day two of the second npower Test at Edgbaston, it will be a major upset if Trescothick has the gloss taken off his latest effort. At the close of play, England had a lead of 239 with five wickets in hand and a good forecast for Saturday in both the meteorological and cricketing senses.

The day began with Trescothick and Michael Vaughan extending their opening partnership to 92 with attractive strokeplay from both batsmen. Trescothick was perhaps fortunate to survive a convincing lbw shout by Charitha Buddika, but otherwise the batsmen were taking advantage of a quicker outfield, a benign pitch and an unthreatening attack.

It was something of a surprise when Vaughan lost his wicket, even if the bowler concerned is never far from springing a shock. Muralitharan was still feeling his way when Vaughan went to sweep, got a top edge and was caught by Sanath Jayasuriya at backward square leg. He was out for 46 and could only look on from the pavilion as Trescothick and Mark Butcher built a record stand for England against Sri Lanka.

Butcher was a little diffident against Muralitharan at the outset, but inspired, no doubt, by the assured authority of Trescothick at the other end, he blossomed so that he contributed fully to the partnership. Trescothick was in imperious mood, taking two fours in an over off Jayasuriya before helping himself to a brace of straight sixes.

He helped himself to another off Aravinda de Silva to bring up his 150, and it was difficult to see how he might get out. However, he was on the stroke of tea when he clipped a ball from Chaminda Vaas off his legs to short mid-wicket. His masterful innings of 161 had come from 232 balls in a stay of nearly five hours, during which he hit 23 fours and those three sixes.

Muralitharan has the ability to turn the ball on any sort of surface, but he suddenly found a couple that could yet have an impact on the match and certainly on the series. The first accounted for Butcher just six runs short of a century. It pitched a good foot outside leg stump and clipped the top of off, which was quite a ball even allowing for a wide angle of delivery.

Next up was Nasser Hussain. The right-hander got one that was wide of off stump, went to kick it away while stretching right forward, but it brushed the pad as it turned between his legs to take leg stump.

The England lead at that point was 179, so it hardly represented a crisis in the course of the innings. Nevertheless, there was a need for Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe to consolidate in the closing hour of the extended day. Stewart had never really looked at ease, and it was not entirely unexpected when Muralitharan produced a ball that leapt off his pad and brushed his glove on the way to short leg.

Andrew Flintoff just had time to unfurl some murderous strokes while Thorpe some equally attractive if less powerful shots to deny Muralitharan any further glory - at least during an absorbing second day's play.