THESE ARE the days of cakes and ale for Marcus Trescothick. Or, since his pals know him as Banger, it might be the age of sausages and mash. But whatever the victuals, the good times are rolling for the large left-hander from Somerset.
"Ah, the man of the moment," said his county colleague Peter Bowler last week when invited to speak of the extraordinary transformation in Trescothick's batting. "He was still a boy, but now he's a man, talking not like an 18-year-old but a mature batsman," said his friend Jeremy Hallett, another former team-mate.
He was never exactly a journeyman, for he hit the ball too hard and had too great an array of shots for that, but a year ago few observers would have had him down as an auto-matic selection in England's batting order. His talent was unharnessed. Now, the opening partnership of Trescothick and Atherton is cast in stone. They are not exactly talking of the pair in the same breath as Hobbs and Sutcliffe, but of all the opening partnerships Atherton has formed for England this one looks to be the most stable since his union with Graham Gooch.
Trescothick has had a scintillating start to this season. A century in the Championship was followed by three more in the B & H Cup. His gallop was interrupted last week at Headingley, where scores of 12 and 31 produced snap headlines: Trescothick Fails. It is like Garbo Talks. The treatment is proof of his progress, of what is now expected.
It is as if, as Bowler discerned, having made the step up so successfully to inter-national cricket, Trescothick now views the sort of stuff he faces in the county game in a different light. He has realised that the quality is lower, and what he can do with it. It has been said that Trescothick is batting in a different class because he is a different class. Wasim Akram and Glenn McGrath may have something to say about this, but the feeling is that they will not do as they like against him.
The man himself could hardly fail to notice the difference. He has talked frequently in the past few months about the considerable developments in his game. "I am sure that bad technique has held me back in the past," he said. "I will not get out because of that any more. I have learnt to leave the ball outside the off stump - and that's particularly important in Test cricket - but I know that there will be parts of my career that will be leaner than others. You will always get the occasional unplayable ball, but you have to get on with your game and have belief that you're good enough to be there." It is this sort of unflappability which has marked him out as much as the runs he has scored.
Ah, the runs. We have come to expect much, but nobody should run away with the notion that Trescothick is yet pulling up statistical trees. True, he scored 87 in his first one-day international and had a Test average of 104 after his maiden Test, but these figures have naturally receded.
His average for England in Tests and one-dayers remains greater than his figures for Somerset, but at 36 and 30 they are not world- shattering. They need improvement. But still, in Trescothick, England have found a batsman with an international pedigree, someone, to boot, with the other personal attributes to be a captain. And a hero.
"It's been a bit hectic," he said as he began to realise what it meant to make it in the big time. "It has really come from nowhere. It makes you feel better inside knowing you've done OK, though, and that takes the pressure off a bit."
Trescothick is in the England side now purely on merit, but he was summoned initially on a hunch. Duncan Fletcher virtually staked his early reputation on him. …