It's all sunshine for England cricket

Marcus Trescothick has regained his touch and that's good news for England.-Pic. AFP

What more could England want? They have beaten a talented but raw Pakistan side after losing the first match of three, they have found a new captain who stays calm and makes all the right decisions, their senior opening batsman is back in form and they have unearthed a genuinely classy wicket-keeper and a destructive fast bowler, writes TED CORBETT.

WHATEVER magic potion has made Marcus Trescothick into a bright, scintillating and effective batsman once again, some Harry Potter figure ought to bottle. He would make a fortune.

Three months ago Trescothick returned from Australia and then the World Cup a downcast cricketer. He had failed to cope with the pace, accuracy and aggression of the likes of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and the rest, he had hardly made a memorable run and his hopes of being England captain had faded.

Trescothick was the first to admit that by any standards he had failed to live up to expectations. He had wilted under fire, while Michael Vaughan had risen to great heights. He had made mistakes when he was given the chance to lead England. On the most miserable night of his life he misunderstood the Duckworth-Lewis sheet and kept assuring England they were winning when every television viewer knew they were losing.

Not surprisingly his comments when he returned home contained phrases about wanting to forget cricket, get as far away from the game as he could and being in need of a complete break. Soon afterwards he had to watch as Vaughan picked up a series of glittering prizes and then the biggest trophy of all — the captaincy of the one-day side.

England's new one-day captain Michael Vaughan (extreme right) is very happy with the way things are going. He has spirited performers in his team such as wicketkeeper Chris Read and all-rounder Anthony McGrath.-Pic. PAUL GILHAM/GETTY IMAGES

Effectively, that meant Vaughan was in line for Nasser Hussain's Test job when Hussain stepped down. It must have been a nasty blow for Trescothick who had lost all his headway in the winter months. He probably wondered if he could keep his Test or his one-day place as the papers seemed to be full of reports of promising young batsmen, including the 6ft 9in Will Jefferson of Essex who began the season with a bang.

Yet, in only a few weeks he has risen to the top of the world rankings once again and by the time England finished their one-day series against Pakistan as victors he was the old, smiling, happy West Country boy seemingly without a care in the world.

It is not widely known that his best friend died tragically 10 years ago and that if you see Trescothick glance towards the heavens it is because he dedicates every run to that pal.

He went through the Tests against Zimbabwe with only two innings, both by a coincidence exactly 148 minutes long. In the first at Lord's he made 59, in the second he scored 43 and neither were distinguished against one of the feeblest bowling attacks that has visited England.

Even the first of his innings in the Pakistan series — a vastly different proposition since, as usual, the Pakistan side bristled with talent, some raw, some experienced — was hardly noticed as he took 25 balls to reach 18 before he was caught behind off the pace of Mohammad Sami.

If that was a knock of no consequence, his next innings was good enough — in the opinion of the judges — to win the Man of the Match award even though James Anderson had taken a hat-trick and finished with astonishing figures of four wickets for 27 in nine overs of calm, considered fast bo wling.

His innings was laid on by Anderson's hat-trick which scattered the last three batsman with the score on 185, leaving the way wide open for a daring, attacking batsman to score as he pleased.

It was at that point that we realised that here was a batsman enjoying his cricket once again. When he reached fifty in 40 balls a huge grin spread across his face and he did not just give the perfunctory wave of his bat towards the dressing room but acknowledged the whole, sell-out Oval crowd who were by this time on their feet.

Now that Trescothick had got the bit between his teeth and the crowd behind him he was never going to turn aside the invitation to let fly and he rushed to 86 in 56 balls. He sent the ball soaring into the far parts of the huge ground and left agile fielders standing as he produced 16 fours and two sixes. Perhaps the most amazing statistic of that innings is that he was first out — skying the ball to Rashid Latif, the wicket-keeper, as he attempted another big hit — at 109.

Vikram Solanki, born in India but, more importantly, born to attack, had made just eight. He may be comparatively new to international cricket but he had realised that with Trescothick in superlative form it is his place to stand and watch. Thus England won with 28 overs to spare and after a narrow defeat in the first one-dayer it was clear that they must take the series.

So there was an argument for giving Trescothick the Man of the Match award but frankly, I will always believe that those judges got it wrong. In another sense they were right since Trescothick finished the series with two Man of the Match awards and the prize for the Man of the Series. The second big Trescothick innings at Lord's was a total contrast to the Oval barrage. Although England looked as if they might skittle Pakistan for a small score once again Abdul Razzaq, batting on the ground where he earns his daily bread as the Middlesex professional, guided them to 229 and under a cloudy sky the ball moved throughout the day.

This time there was to be no massive hitting, no rapid scoring and no chances taken as Trescothick steadied the ship and batted throughout the 48.3 overs. He made sure that England were never far behind the rate; because the rain clouds hinted that the game might be abandoned and that he might fall victim to Duckworth and Lewis's mathematics once again.

James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff have given the England attack the cutting edge.-Pic. TOM SHAW/GETTY IMAGES

This time he did not have to make the translation. The D\L position has a prominent place on the new Lord's scoreboard and there were times when it was clear that Trescothick responded to those figures just to ensure that England were never far adrift.

All the same he also made realistic choices, never going for the big shot when a nudge down the ground would serve as well and ignoring the appeals, the encroaching darkness and the half chances to soldier on to the end.

At 154 for six in the 36th over he had another piece of luck to go with the three near misses Pakistan let go. He was joined by Chris Read, the new wicket-keeper, who is what sportsmen call a character and what we will soon learn to describe as an unorthodox hero in the Jack Russell mould.

The two finished off the match by putting on 77 at a run a ball and Trescothick completed his recuperation by hitting a six off Azhar Mahmood.

His change of fortune was complete and he deserved every word of praise that came from Vaughan, the skipper who had won a trophy just a week after taking charge of England's young one-day side.

Vaughan was asked if television pictures of him looking worried were an accurate reflection of his state of mind. "I was cool because of the way Marcus was playing. He looked to have the situation totally under control," Vaughan said. "The way he batted was incredible." Trescothick added: "I have drawn a line under my misery last winter. I had quite a bit of luck here today but it is important to take advantage when it is your day. The century was great but my satisfaction came from being there at the end."

The glory he obtained from two successive innings as well as creeping up the world ratings cannot hide two more facts about this successful England one-day outfit. It has been unchanged throughout the three matches — which reflects on its luck as well as the way the selectors have viewed the performances — and although the young batsmen have not pulled their weight there have been as many stepping forward to demand further opportunities as you could expect.

Read has turned out, after a troubled tour of South Africa four years ago, to be the most promising young wicket-keeper in England. When he takes the ball it seems the most natural action. Throws come to his gloves, he has allowed just one bye in three matches (to a ball that must have been taken to the offside by a gust of wind while he was diving down the legside).

England can look to him with confidence to step into Alec Stewart's pads whenever that moment comes. They can expect runs from him too; perhaps an average of around 25 in Tests or one-day games. I am told by those with access to the noises coming from the pitch that he is another of those chattering, annoying and upsetting wicket-keepers. He may be England's first 21st century success story.

Anderson is another who will serve England well. David Lloyd, the former England coach, and I drank a cup of coffee together the day after the second match and agreed that we had never seen anyone turn from village cricketer to authentic Test and one-day international bowler so quickly.

"Just like Brian Statham," Lloyd answered. "In two ways. Very sensible. Doesn't waste his time with trying for too much pace, doesn't strain, just bowls a very good outswinger around the off stump until he gets you out. We used to say to Statham `For heaven's sake, bowl him a bouncer'. He just look at you and go: `No, I'll just get him out.' This lad's the same. Sensible but with a lot of talent."

So what more could England want? They have beaten a talented but raw Pakistan side after losing the first match of three, they have found a new captain who stays calm and makes all the right decisions, their senior opening batsman is back in form and they have unearthed a genuinely classy wicket-keeper and a destructive fast bowler.

Besides, Andrew Flintoff seems to have grown into an adult and his back-up Anthony McGrath produces the runs and wickets with regularity.

I also hear that the selectors are talking to Graham Thorpe about a return to the ranks.

It's raining outside but for an England cricket fan life seems to be all sunshine at the moment.