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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 December, 2004, 14:12 GMT
Lefties show right stuff
By Paul Grunill

There is no denying the importance to any side of a consistently successful opening partnership.

Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss
Trescothick (left) and Strauss have forged a strong bond for England

Talent, technique, durability and an occasional bit of good fortune are all needed if a batsman is to prosper at the top of the order.

But just as important is chemistry between the players batting at one and two - and England's Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick have all the necessary elements.

Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe certainly did, as shown by an astonishing average opening stand of 87.8 in 25 Tests.

And the same is true of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes of the West Indies, whose 16 century partnerships and combined total of 6,482 runs stand as Test records for a first wicket pair.

The Strauss-Trescothick combination was first seen in a Test against New Zealand only seven months ago.

And they formed an immediate bond by putting on 190 to set England on the way to an unparallelled seven-match winning streak through the 2004 season.

ENGLAND'S BEST FIRST WICKET STANDS
359 Hutton/Washbrook
v South Africa 1948
323 Hobbs/Rhodes
v Australia 1912
290 Cowdrey/Pullar
v South Africa 1960
283 Hobbs/Sutcliffe
v Australia 1925
273 Trescothick/Strauss
v South Africa 2004
268 Hobbs/Sutcliffe
v South Africa 1924
234 Boycott/Barber
v Australia 1966
223 Tavare/Fowler
v New Zealand 1983
223 Athey/Broad
v Australia 1986

It stood as their best combined effort until their dominant double century stand hauled the team back into contention in the second Test against South Africa in Durban.

During the first Test in Port Elizabeth, where they began the series against South Africa by putting on 152, Strauss was asked why they had hit it off so quickly.

"We enjoy batting together," he replied.

"We're very different types of player and I think sometimes that puts the bowlers off, even though we're both left-handers."

Both love to cut and pull, as so many left-handers do.

But Strauss, who has taken to Test cricket like a duck given a first sighting of the village pond, utilises an orthodox technique, whereas the taller Trescothick relies on a good eye to compensate for his lack of foot movement.

Trescothick, it would seem, can get on with anyone.

New to Test cricket in 2000, he was guided by Mike Atherton, the pair of them achieving an average partnership of 43.23 in 16 matches, including four three figure stands.

Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer
Hayden and Langer are the yardstick by which others are judged

He then joined forces with Michael Vaughan, now the England captain, and they averaged 48.69 over 28 Tests, with five century stands and 15 more over 50, before Vaughan moved down the order to accommodate Strauss.

Next summer, they will be able to measure themselves against Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.

The two Australians are widely regarded as the best opening pair currently playing Test cricket and have set their sights on relieving Greendige and Haynes of their records.

They are frienbds on and off the pitch and when Hayden made 380 against Zimbabwe in Perth in October 2003, no-one was more delighted than Langer.

"His concentration is absolutely magnificent - like a fighter pilot's," Langer wrote in a BBC Sport column.

"He has worked for years on his technique and I would say it is almost perfect."

Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones must try to find holes in that technique next summer.

But if England are finally going to win a series against Australia, the blossoming partnership of Strauss and Trescothick will be equally important.




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