Trescothick rescues woeful England

England XI 256 for 9 (Trescothick 124*, Prior 50, Yasir Arafat 4-45) v Patron's XI

Marcus Trescothick demonstrated the virtues of patience on a slow and low track, batting from first ball to last for an unbeaten 124, as England recovered from a desperate position on the opening day of their first warm-up fixture against a PCB Patron's XI at Rawalpindi.
That they did so, however, was due entirely to Duncan Fletcher's pre-match arrangement that all 14 members of his squad would be able to play a part if required. Had he not done so, England would not have had batsmen of the quality of Matt Prior and Alex Loudon to bail them out at Nos 10 and 11. Between them, they all but doubled England's total, adding 126 precious runs for the last two wickets.

Despite a composed acclimatisation period over the past week, England soon discovered that there is no substitute for genuine match practice. After losing Andrew Strauss in the third over of the day, they went on to ship five more wickets in the space of 19 runs after the mid-morning drinks interval, eventually reaching lunch on an ignominious 61 for 6. Trescothick had made 34 of these. It was not riches by any means, but by emulating the slow-but-steady tactics that had served his opening partner, Michael Atherton, so well on the 2000-01 tour, he had at least given himself a platform that his team-mates had so palpably squandered.

The top half of England's innings was a sorry tale, with none of the first six dismissals reaching double-figures. Najaf Shah, a promising 20-year-old left-arm seamer from Lahore, bowled Strauss for 5 as he offered no stroke (10 for 1), before exposing Michael Vaughan's peculiar weakness on low-bouncing wickets, trapping him lbw for 9 with a full-length inswinger (41 for 2).

The appearance of Kevin Pietersen at No. 4 was a significant hint as to England's thinking ahead of the first Test, but though he has been middling virtually everything that has come his way during practice, his habit of starting an innings slowly was once again exposed as Yasir Ali persuaded him to skew a sharp catch to Asim Kamal in the gully. One run later, Paul Collingwood, pushed in ahead of Ian Bell in the pecking order, attempted a horrid smear across the line and under-edged onto his middle stump to give Yasir Arafat his first breakthrough (54 for 4).

Arafat, Scotland's overseas player, then ripped through the middle order with three wickets in 12 balls - all bowled. Bell, who is the man most likely to miss out when Andrew Flintoff joins the squad next week, missed an important opportunity to restate his credentials. He had faced just four deliveries when Arafat swung one back between bat and pad, while Geraint Jones, another whose place is under some scrutiny, fared little better, falling seventh ball for 4 as Arafat squeezed through his half-hearted defensive shot.
As Trescothick bedded down after lunch, it was left to Ashley Giles to make the running, striking five fours in a brisk 30 before the legspinner Imran Tahir, who played two wicketless matches for Middlesex in 2003, struck with his sixth ball of the innings (98 for 7). Shaun Udal, in his first innings for England in more than a decade, helped balance the books with a composed 14, but it wasn't until Prior strode to the crease at 130 for 8 that England began to impose their authority.

Prior's innings began a touch streakily, with one top-edged sweep eluding the wicketkeeper, but he has never been a batsmen to stand on ceremony. As the PCB bowlers tired, he and Trescothick began to unfurl some shots of real authority, and it was a measure of the acceleration they produced in the final session that the second fifty of Trescothick's innings came from a mere 61 balls - the first had taken a laborious 125.

Arafat returned to the fray with a beauty to pick up his fourth clean-bowled of the innings, as Prior played down the wrong line, leaving Loudon to accompany Trescothick to the close, with a composed 3 not out from 30 balls. England's innings had been rescued from ignominy, although not in the most conventional of fashions.