For England’s elite batting coach, the Test team’s new all-out attacking mentality has its drawbacks. While previous incumbents could let their minds wander during sedate throwing exercises into the nets, Marcus Trescothick has to contend with batsmen who make their blitz approach from close range. He has already carried a cracking shot to the chest. “It’s an occupational hazard,” is his phlegmatic view.
But apart from being peppered in sessions he describes as “like cue ball T20 drills as the ball flies back left, right and centre”, few are better placed to judge England’s ultra-aggressive approach, one of the captains, Ben Stokes, has vowed to continue – and even accelerate – in the second Test against Pakistan at Multan on Friday.
It’s fair to say England cricket teams haven’t always been on the brink of sporting trends (as a quick glance at any number of one-day and T20 kits will attest), but Trescothick believes the ashes between Stokes and Brendon McCullum are a fashion that others are likely to follow.
“It’s up to everyone to decide if they should catch up and play this style,” he said. “It’s not for us to judge. I think some teams will. Why not? What do they have to lose? Someone like a New Zealander could try it. They are quite quick at following trends in the game. I think you’ll see the opposition try now and then.”
Trescothick was a vital cog in the machine as a previous era England Test team sought to increase their scoring rate and put batting aggression at the heart of their game. As the 2005 Ashes approached, Duncan Fletcher’s side put their foot down, scoring at a then national record pace of 3.72 and 3.92 per over in series against New Zealand and the West Indies in 2004 before setting new standards settled with a remarkable 5.13 against Bangladesh in the beginning. 2005 (the 5.73 recorded in the Chester-le-Street Test during that series stood up to the 6.73 recorded in Rawalpindi this week).
That led to the famous series victory over Ricky Ponting and co as England’s positive intention proved crucial in wresting the urn from Australian hands for the first time since 1989. An Ashes series looms next year, a prospect Trescothick is clearly beginning to enjoy: “I wish we were going into the Ashes next week.” So there’s a temptation to draw parallels, although the former opener believes the difference now is that England are the innovators.
“That [in 2005] was a time when we were trying to catch up with Australia,” he said. “They had moved the benchmark in terms of their style of play. I remember writing an article in 2001 that said Australia plays a different game than everyone else. I remember being chosen for it. But this is another style. We scored 3.5 against four in that series and it was great. But [now] we score on six and over. That is not to say it will happen every day, but we will find methods and ways to make it happen.”
The bowl of the Multan Stadium may also bring back memories of later in 2005, when – fresh off their Ashes success – England rolled into town and were narrowly beaten after peak-era Danish Kaneria and Shoaib Akhtar caused a second-innings collapse.
“The difference here is that the team came to the end,” said Trescothick, who captained England in that game and made 193 in the first innings before his team fell 22 runs short in chasing 197 in the second. “We all thought it would continue, but it fell away quite quickly, while this team is just starting.
“It’s the start of a good long journey when we’re going to have exciting cricket and you’ll see some young players really blossom and stand out.”