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November 13, 2005
Marcus Trescothick is a phlegmatic chap. These days, his public utterances are straight from the ECB school of media management, and can be as forthright as his feet movement, which isn't saying much. He is not renowned as one of the most cerebral of Test cricketers, and where others might have jumped at the opportunity to lead England in an overseas Test, Trescothick chose first to seek the advice of his wife. Behind every great man is a great woman, they say, but his touching deference was hardly an encouraging omen for the thinking on your feet required in international leadership.
What has never been in doubt, however, is Trescothick's vast appetite for run-scoring. It is the alpha and the omega of his existence - in Tests, one-dayers, and perhaps uniquely among his peers, in warm-up matches as well. It was he who bailed the team out during their sticky 52-run victory at Rawalpindi, with runs in each innings including a century in the first, and it was he who today produced a magnificent unbeaten 135 - his 13th Test century - to leave Pakistan trailing in his wake at Multan.
Trescothick was once the frontrunner to inherit the England captaincy from Nasser Hussain, before a series of well-documented faux pas allowed Michael Vaughan to screech up on the inside-track. In 2002, he admitted to Wisden Cricket Monthly that he didn't know what type of a captain he would like to be, and the following year, he brought England disturbingly close to a World Cup defeat against Namibia, after misreading the Duckworth-Lewis rain regulations sheet that he, as vice-captain, had been entrusted with.
At the end of that exhausting winter, he told a radio phone-in that he wanted to "turn into a fat bastard and sleep for a year", but his most memorable clanger was dropped at Headingley later in the summer, when he and Mark Butcher took an offer for bad light with South Africa on the run, and in doing so, effectively forfeited the Test match. All these, and more, were reasons to doubt whether Trescothick was the man to carry England's fortunes into this key Test match, and as seems increasingly likely, for the remainder of the winter.
But then, this England team knows all about doubt-management. After their disastrous Lord's Test last summer, they recovered their poise while the nation reeled in despair, and hurtled back into the Ashes with a gung-ho victory at Edgbaston. Trescothick, lest it be forgotten, was the main man then as well. It was his blitzkrieg 90 at the top of the innings that paved the way for Andrew Flintoff's tour de force. All he was doing was playing the ball on its merits, accumulating merrily, regardless of the circumstances surrounding him.
Trescothick has often been likened to a left-handed Graham Gooch, for his forceful thumps and ability for breezy accumulation. And Gooch suffered similar doubts about his proficiency as a leader. It seemed he was to be the eternal sergeant-major, with the moustache to match, until in his 15th year of international cricket he was finally entrusted with the captain's badge. He responded as Trescothick has set himself to do, leading from the front for what turned out to be the four most fruitful years of his batting life.
Ian Bell, who looked and learnt with admiration during their 180-run stand for the second wicket, described the manner in which Trescothick has led the side as "exceptional". "Captaincy hasn't changed him at all," he insisted, and to judge by Trescothick's composure - even as Shoaib Akhtar hammered him in the chest in the dying seconds of the day - it would be hard to disagree.
As Vaughan has been at pains to point out all summer, this is an England team that more or less runs itself. Every man knows his role, and every man rises to the occasion when it is their turn to come to the fore. Trescothick, one of the most diligent workers in a side of hard yakkas, runs his own game because runs is his game. And if nothing else, this innings should hasten the inevitable, and ensure that Vaughan catches the first plane home to get his injured knee properly dealt with. He has now had it confirmed that his legacy is in safe hands.