August 31, 2000

Atherton and Trescothick build strong foundation for England

Cornhill Insurance

Mike Atherton and Marcus Trescothick did England proud with an opening partnership of 159 against West Indies in the crucial Fifth Test at The Oval after being put in to bat. They handled the pace of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh superbly, building a strong foundation for what the home side are hoping will be a match-winning total.

Ambrose and Walsh produced their customary immaculate, threatening opening spell in a tense atmosphere, with the board remaining on zero until the last ball of the fifth over, when Atherton pushed Ambrose wide of mid-on for a single. The policy was obviously to see off the veteran pair and make hay at the expense of the lesser bowlers.

The England batsmen naturally struggled at times, but held firm, and as usual the pressure relaxed as McLean replaced Walsh. Ironically the first chance came off McLean, as Trescothick slashed outside off stump and Campbell at second slip failed to hold a hard catch high above his head on its way to the boundary. But they survived the crucial first hour, laying a firm foundation so vital to England's prosperity.

At lunch the total was 66, and the batsmen weathered another combined assault by Ambrose and Walsh to bring up the hundred together. It was immediately followed by Trescothick's second fifty in his four Test innings to date, achieved with a superb cover drive for four, off the 131st ball he faced. 48 minutes later Atherton pulled McLean to the midwicket boundary to bring up his half-century, which took him 151 balls.

The stand was finally broken on 159, when Trescothick (78) cut at leg-spinner Nagamootoo and Campbell held a sharp catch by his shoulder; it was England's highest opening stand against West Indies in Oval Tests, beating the 155 by Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe in 1928. At this point the teams trooped off for tea.