Saturday, 22 March 2008

Trescothick leaves a terrific England career behind

Confirmation of the end was sad but inevitable. Marcus Trescothick has seemed a tormented man for two years, weighed down by problems far superseding anything that occurs on the cricket pitch. So it was somehow fitting that he did not go out in a blaze of glory, but a low-key announcement that he was officially retiring from international cricket. For he has been a man not entirely comfortable with the intense media glare international cricketers are now subjected to, preferring to go quietly about scoring runs than chase headlines or the England captaincy.

For six years from his debut in 2000, Trescothick was a fearsome sight at the top of England's order. Commentators frequently bemoaned his lack of foot movement, but he developed a highly effective 'stand and deliver' method that relied on fantastic hand-eye coordination and, above all, an uncluttered mindset that focussed on hitting the ball cleanly. If that sounds a little demeaning, it should not, for it takes a fiercely single-minded individual to have trust in his method and succeed with a technique that many believed was fundamentally flawed, and could not succeed over an extended period against the best.

Trescothick was very much Duncan Fletcher's pick, selected not for any sterling county deeds but largely for an innings of 167 against Glamorgan, whom Fletcher was coaching at the time, in 1999. The knock displayed his uninhibited talent, his ability to play his natural game even as others around him were losing confidence in theirs, and a power that could intimidate the world's finest bowlers. He was a tremendous team-man, too, whose selflessness was exemplified when he compromised his batting in accepting the challenge of keeping wicket for England in the one-day series in New Zealand in 2002.

Trescothick was at his best when he stopped worrying about technique, and allowed his rich natural instincts and belligerence to come to the fore. These were the hallmarks of some of his most memorable Test knocks, including his momentum-seizing 90 in the 2005 Ashes and an epic 219 to help England square the series with South Africa two years previously. The latter was particularly noteworthy, as it came at a time when his technique was under exceptional scrutiny. But he succeeded in freeing his mind from technical jargon, displaying admirable resilience aided by the less glamorous attributes of selectivity, patience and sheer determination in his nine and-a-half hour masterpiece.

The finest and most valuable of his innings was indisputably at Johannesburg in 2005. A pulsating match - and series - was decided by Matthew Hoggard's 12-wicket haul, but it was Trescothick's brilliance under pressure that set-up victory. He scored 180 out of England's second innings 332, launching a fearless assault on the South African attack while team-mates floundered. This was vintage Trescothick: driving powerfully; pulling audaciously; treating the spin of Nicky Boje with disdain; and steadfastly refusing to get bogged down by the pressure team-mates were succumbing to.

It is for knocks like these that Trescothick deserves to be remembered. While his technique was to some extent found out by Gillespie and McGrath, he had the faith to stick with it and play a vital part in the 2005 Ashes - though failing, sadly, to score his first Test hundred against Australia. While he can be pigeon-holed as a thrasher of trundling medium-pace, the truth is Trescothick was a wonderfully adaptable player, who excelled himself against South Africa but, utilising his long reach and slog-sweep, was also a close second to Graham Thorpe as the most successful Englishman of his time in the sub-Continent. His vigil of 193 in Pakistan in late 2005, when he had reluctantly accepted the captaincy, seemed to signal a time of renewed productivity, when he would consistently combine patience with his natural free-hitting skill. But it was not quite to be.

Trescothick was the consummate team-man, and deserves to feel no guilt for walking out of the Ashes tour. With 26 international hundreds, he was a high-class international batsman, and one of the finest openers England have ever possessed in ODIs, the man behind countless daring assaults during the overs of fielding restrictions.

At 32, he could have still had his best international years in front of him. It is not to be but everyone will hope Trescothick will replicate his form of last season for several more years with Somerset, the county of his birth and, in these days when international superstars seldom turn out for their counties, almost nostalgically close to his heart. If he does, he may yet achieve something just as satisfying as the 2005 Ashes win: a first county championship for Somerset.


Anonymous said...

Excellent article Tim.

The joy of watching him score that 180 in South Africa, stayed with me for a long time after that tour finished. (it even got me through the drubbing they gave us in the ODI's)..

Rob said...

He has been and will continue to be sorely missed by England. His one day form was head and shoulders above any of his England contemporaries.

allrounder said...

I can remember his debut series, at home to the Windies, when his unflappable approach saw him able to face down the twin threat of Courtney and Curtley. He has been as much part of England's 21st century renaissance as the likes of Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan, and Matthew Hoggard.

Tim said...

Cheers guys. Tres will certainly be missed, though I suspect he'll continue to plunder runs for Somerset for a few seasons yet...

Richard Lake said...

Always one of my favorite players, he has left a huge hole in the England batting order mainly due to the way he got his runs. As fine a player as Ali Cook is, he doesn#'t dominate like Tres did.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Strauss's slump in form came when Tres stopped playing and England couldn't replace him with a similar bludgening opener.

A shoo-in for the best England One Day team of all time. His test stats would have probably been better if he wasn't such a team man. He set the tone for the 2005 Ashes win at Edgebaston, which turned the series around.

Chrispy said...

Fantastic player and much missed, prehaps more so than Flintoff. His slip catching, willingness to do anything for the team, whether it be take on an unwanted captaincy, the role of wicket keeper, or that of pinch hitter, and of course his fantastic eye made him one of England's best players, especially in limited overs cricket. He will be much missed and already has been. Good times ahead for Somerset though until retirement time!