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The Wisden Verdict by Paul Coupar at Old Trafford
August 16, 2004
Paul Coupar runs the rule over England's victorious XI
Feet set in concrete as he fended fatally away from his body in the first innings, and made only 12 runs in the match, which had his critics grumbling again. But Trescothick has never really moved his feet, probably never will and has made plenty of runs in spite of it. Too heavily criticised: if someone had said on his debut in 2000 that he would average over 40 in four years' time, any England fan would have said thank you very much.
England's Justin Langer? Rescued them on the second evening as West Indies' chances of a decisive lead faded. Partnership of 177 with Thorpe, playing his 93rd Test to Strauss's sixth. No small compliment to say that the two left-handers were virtually indistinguishable: compact, unflappable, bat carefully over ball. Like Langer, plays the percentages by sticking well within his limits, which made his fatal attempted pull from outside off in the second innings so odd.
Key's two innings here perfectly summed up why his England future is still uncertain. A second-innings 93 not out, full of chest-puffed-out defiance on a wearing last-day pitch, guided England to victory. It also summed up the qualities that made Matthew Fleming comment admiringly that Key "had a bit of dog in him". But his first-innings dismissal - bowled by a Collymore beauty that pitched middle and hit off - highlighted a Crawleyish tendency to try to hit straight balls to leg. Still, a dubious technique - when welded to indomitable fight - didn't stop Nasser Hussain playing 96 Tests.
Though capable of the odd horrid session, England generally seem to run like clockwork in the field. Everyone does their job well enough to secure the advantage, so there was no real need for Hussain-like ruses or rollockings. Two odd innings of 12 and 33, in which his desire to tighten up his game - he had been practising the leave in the nets - seemed to leave him unnaturally constrained.
Vaughan said there was no-one he would prefer to see walking out in a crisis. Arrived at 40 for 3 in the first innings - and left at 310. Twice dropped by Sarwan during his 114, and his fielding gets creakier as his middle fills out. But the positives massively outweigh the negatives. Got his head over the ball, and guided it exactly where the fielders least wanted it on the third evening. Then managed - most of the time - to get head out of the way during a brutal spell from Edwards on the fourth morning. One of most reassuring presences in world cricket. Must play on until the end of the 2005 Ashes.
Undoubtedly England's greatest bar-emptier since you-know-who. Now his cricket is worthy of mention in the same breath too. Composed innings of 57 not out to secure victory on the final afternoon, with two sixes a late addition and no longer a staple. Seventh successive Test in which he has scored a fifty. Less obviously he is now a genuine wicket-taker, too: since January 2004 his strike rate is almost exactly the same as that of Jeff Thomson. Six wickets in the match, including Lara with a brutal lifter. Also chipped away the barnacle-like Chanderpaul as England stormed back into the game. Has now bowled 20 balls to Lara in his last four innings, dismissing him three times and conceding 12 runs.
Unobtrusive - always a good sign in a wicketkeeper, especially one whose glovework has been under scrutiny. Worked with Jack Russell before the game, having averaged 11 more byes an innings than his ousted predecessor Chris Read. Tidy keeping this time on a testing pitch on which some balls spat and others died.
It is a measure of how far Giles has come from his crisis of confidence amid those wheelie-bin jibes that in the first innings he actually pitched the ball up too much, giving it a little bit too much air. Still, now has a Warne-like 21 wickets in the series.
Captain Sensible on the third morning, trying to hit the stumps as Flintoff and Harmison tried to hit heads. When Edwards reciprocated the barrage, Hoggard faced down some horrible slingy bouncers as nightwatchman, lasting nearly two hours without ever trying to dodge the strike. Sprawling catch last night at long-on - the type that fast bowlers of yesteryear would have stuck a hand towards - began West Indies' slide to 165 all out in second innings. Has emerged from the growing pack as England's first-choice back-up seamer.
Early on the first afternoon Harmison was bowling with one man in front of the bat, which says everything about his improved control and confidence. Bowling in the first innings nasty, brutish and short. Four wickets in the second innings, as West Indies crumbled.
Poor lad: spent most of the game looking like the little boy lost. Not given his chance in his natural habitat - the overcast muggy conditions that would have helped his swing on the third morning. Instead Vaughan opted for an unsuccessful bumper barrage. Bowled only 16 overs in the game, during which he pitched it up and bowled neatly if unspectacularly. Only player in the team who does not look brimful with confidence.
Paul Coupar is assistant editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge