Trott knock leaves Sussex on the rocks
Warwickshire 281 for 5 (Trott 132*, Chopra 105) v Sussex
On the seafront, the English channel was grey and turbulent, angry enough to bring to mind the despairing vision of Brighton Rock. It was the sort of murky spring day attuned to a vision of hopelessness and Sussex's bowlers found an ultimate horror of their own: Jonathan Trott and Varun Chopra, tooled up and in the mood for batting.
Both made assured hundreds and if Chopra did not make it to the close, falling lbw for 105 to Luke Wells' occasional offspin to give the bowler only his third first-class wicket, Trott saw out the day for 132 not out. After undergoing routine England fitness and medical tests at Loughborough earlier this week, this was his first appearance of the season for Warwickshire and he has returned with his England reputation now firmly established. There was a certainty about him, perhaps even a new status.
With a hint of the understated menace that pervaded Graham Greene's Brighton, Trott and Chopra gradually dismantled the hopes of the Sussex attack. Not quite gangsters, admittedly, but after all this was not Brighton but Hove. They were quite disturbing enough for Hove, letting it be known that Warwickshire this season are not a team to underestimate. Today, they got two hundreds in the top four; last week Darren Maddy and Rikki Clarke both hit centuries in a draining eighth-wicket stand. They are not easily subdued.
Warwickshire lead Division One by a point, with a game in hand on their closest rivals, already 40 points ahead of Lancashire. With bad weather about, they are thinking in terms of winning in three days, even though Sussex pegged them back slightly with two late wickets. "Hopefully we can have three days of good weather and push for a result," Trott said. "After being put in we've had a pretty good day."
William Porterfield and Ian Bell were early casualties. Porterfield caught off Steve Magoffin at second slip, but only after Ed Joyce had tidied up Wells' fumble. Bell, still to escape his slump in form, fell without scoring, pushing confidently at James Anyon and beaten by one that came back. He is a class act, and will prove it again, but in his present state Greene would have felt obliged to have him killed by the end of the first chapter. "He'll be all right," Trott said of his England colleague.
Trott and Chopra then reclaimed Warwickshire's authority. From 13 for 2, they added 219 in 64 overs, scooting to a hundred stand in only 22 overs before searching for something more durable as the day progressed. There is enough in this pitch to encourage Warwickshire that they are in a powerful position; Sussex's quicks, worn down by the certainty of the batsmens' strokeplay, did not have the best of days. They bowled too short, Amjad Khan in particular.
Chopra seems to relish the early season, when bowlers pitch the ball up in search of swing or seam. He drives well and judiciously and, partly thanks to a short boundary on the pavilion side, he soon forced a fielding position that had almost become extinct this April: the cover sweeper. He often gets runs when it is difficult, which is not a bad habit to have.
As for Trott, place any situation before him these days and he proceeds with a sense of preparedness. He reached his hundred with a blissful straight drive off Anyon, but the shot that struck in the memory was a workaday deflection to third man; the first time he played it, there was the suspicion of a thick edge, but by the third time he seemed so in control of the situation that it was clearly misguided to question his intentions. "The gap was too big not to try to hit it there," Trott, ever an explorer of percentages, said.
"There are always things you can improve on as a batter," he added. "It's a very fickle game. You can't say that because you have had a good Test series you will come into first-class cricket and do really well. Belly and myself are working just as hard as each other. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't."
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo