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March 8, 2010
In the sleepy outskirts of Chittagong, in a concrete-lined field circled by more grazing cows than gripped spectators, Jonathan Trott produced an innings of intense personal importance. His even-tempoed century, filled with common-sense strokeplay and a command of the crease that has been sorely lacking in recent encounters, was the mainstay of an England innings that ticked along satisfactorily against unremarkable opponents. It also ensured that he will feature in the first Test on Friday.
Three months ago, Trott's place in the England Test team seemed about as secure as they come. His nerveless debut hundred at The Oval in August had secured the Ashes in an otherwise fraught encounter, and when he followed that up with a diligent 69 in his maiden appearance against his native South Africa at Centurion, he appeared to be England's most natural fit at No. 3 since Mark Butcher, having provided a solidity at that position that the likes of Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara could not rival.
But then something went horribly awry. Maybe South Africa's constant chirping drilled through his calm exterior, or maybe it was simply a case of vertigo after such a rapid and dramatic ascent, but the confidence in his footwork and the authority of his shot selection deserted him in an instant. In a frenetic finale to his homecoming tour, he picked up 93 runs in his last five innings, and as a prelude to the pressure under which he began this match, he was dropped from the one-day side to make way for Craig Kieswetter.
"It's one of those things," said Trott. "You have to understand the direction the coach and captain want to go, and you have to keep improving and adjust your game to fit the role they want you to play. I thought I did okay, to be honest, in South Africa, but those are the ups and downs of being a cricketer. If you look at the amount of days you have [that are] good, they are a bit less than the bad days. You have to make the most of the opportunities, and I'm glad I had a chance to have a knock today. The ball's in my court in terms of being the best I can."
Today was the start of the fightback. No-one can pretend that the intensity of this contest comes close to any of the five Tests that Trott has so far played - and as an added confirmation of the sleepy scenario, the match was even stripped of first-class status on the second day, after Bangladesh A brought in a spare seamer to replace the injured Syed Rasel. But as Kevin Pietersen would doubtless testify, time in the middle is essential when your form is on the blink, and after 14 fours from 134 deliveries, that is exactly what Trott managed to achieve.
"It was satisfying on a personal note of being able to come and contribute to the side, having not played for a while in the middle," said Trott. "I think it's frustrating for any cricketer to be on the sidelines - you want to play all the time - but it was important I stayed positive and kept my game in good order for a chance like today. I'm just glad it went well after all the preparation in the nets."
There's still some debate as to where exactly Trott will play. No. 3 is where he batted for this fixture, and for each of his Test appearances in South Africa. But come Friday he could yet be shunted up to open (where he had some initial success in ODIs), as a replacement for the absent Andrew Strauss, and potentially ahead of Michael Carberry, who will hope to get a second chance on Tuesday afternoon, having fallen for 5 in England's first innings.
"No-one has chatted about the batting [order] or anything," said Trott. "We were just told the line-up for this match and told to get on with it. I'd bat anywhere for England, at 3, 4, 5 ... anywhere. At Warwickshire, I've always been in the middle order, with Ian [Bell] and myself, but batting in the top order, you could face the new ball anytime, so it's important to be able to play against it. Any opportunity, I'll take it."
Thanks to this innings, Trott seems certain to get that chance to shine, but more importantly, he will enter the first Test in a mindset more reminiscent of the free-scoring cricketer who took his county form straight into his Test debut last summer. "As a cricketer you put yourself under enough pressure to succeed and do well," he said. "It's one of those things that comes with the territory of playing for England and wearing the badge. So to be able to not be too hard on yourself is important. You have to be calm and play your natural game.
"I just went out and batted, and would have played the same if it was a Test match or a friendly, like it is," he added. "I challenge myself to try and improve, every time I go to the crease. I prepare properly and try to be in the right frame of mind to play properly. There's always pressure on your place in the side, but I think it's important you are true to yourself and play the best way you know."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.Feeds: Andrew Miller
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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