Trott and Bell impress Giles to push Test case
Warwickshire 219 and 298 for 3 (Trott 121, Bell 92*) lead Nottinghamshire 388 by 129 runs
Just as several batsmen around the county circuit will have started to wonder whether a door into the England dressing room was beginning to open for them to be ushered through, it may have been pushed shut again here as two players combined to banish any doubts about their form.
Jonathan Trott, at the head of the list of contenders given that he was selected in the squad for Headingley, turned up the pressure on Ravi Bopara with a superb century here at Trent Bridge, finding timely support from Ian Bell, who bounced back from his double failure in Leeds - and his dismissal for a single yesterday - with an unbeaten 92.
They shared a partnership of 188 for the third wicket in testing circumstances after Warwickshire, having lost their final first innings wicket in the morning to be all out for 219, were asked to follow on.
With some nip in the pitch and movement in the air, converting a deficit of 169 to a lead of 129 with three wickets down on the final morning represented an admirable effort, even if Nottinghamshire did not bowl as effectively as they might wish to have done. And, though Ant Botha deserves a favourable mention for his part in proceedings, it was pretty much down to Trott and Bell.
What's more, with all of it witnessed by Ashley Giles, the England selector who is Warwickshire's director of cricket, it will provide interesting food for thought when Giles joins Geoff Miller and James Whitaker to discuss options for the crucial final Test at The Oval.
They will have considered the case anyway, among other possibilities, for keeping faith with Bopara, and for bringing back Mark Ramprakash, less than a month away from his 40th birthday, to face Australia in the biggest Test in England since the last home Ashes series. But they will have fresh reason to believe that Bell, despite the doubts, might yet be the man for the occasion, and will find it difficult not to turn to Trott should they decide to dispense with Bopara, even though he has yet to play Test cricket and could face no tougher baptism.
Giles, objective though he has to be, is bound to give Trott his endorsement, and clearly feels Bell is showing his mettle.
"It was very difficult circumstances for them to come in on, with the ball swinging around, the pitch nipping a bit, and against a quality bowling attack," he said. "For them to go out as they did, one getting a hundred and the other close to it, shows strength of character and technique as well.
"Jonathan has been playing like that for a couple of seasons. What impresses me about him now is that he is doing it back to back. He is very organised in his game, very focussed now on sticking to his routines in how he practises and how he trains and he is getting it right."
The circumstances, in fact, could have been more difficult. Where Bell had been obliged to begin his first attempt to rediscover his form effectively with Warwickshire two down for 36 and two new men at the crease, he at least this time had Botha to take a little of the immediate pressure off his shoulders.
The South African-born all-rounder, asked to revisit his distant past role as opening bat, gave a solid account of himself alongside a less assured Ian Westwood, who took more than an hour making a very scratchy 11 before edging Mark Ealham to second slip. His 64 was his best score for Warwickshire and his willingness to share the strike must have helped Bell to ease himself into form.
Not that he looked short of confidence, getting off the mark to his fifth ball and easing his nerves with a couple of early boundaries off Ealham. Nottinghamshire immediately brought Ryan Sidebottom into the attack, hoping for a repeat of Bell's first-innings dismissal. But the left-armer was not as penetrative as he had been on Wednesday and it was the medium-pace seamer, Andre Adams, who went closest to unseating Bell for another low score, making a confident appeal for leg before when he was 14 and finding the edge of his bat two deliveries later, only for the ball to drop just short of second slip.
When Botha went, caught at gully when he edged a drive off Adams, Warwickshire were 101-2. Trott now joined Bell and, in an impressive statement of intent, seized the initiative firmly.
They had put on 50 together within nine overs, with Trott already setting the pace. He passed his personal half-century in 39 balls, his 10 boundaries to that point including three in one over against Sidebottom. Bell, playing some nice shots but being necessarily watchful, reached his 50 from 95 balls.
Trott continued to drive confidently and when the partnership topped 100 after 19 overs, he had 63. At 75 he completed 1,000 first-class runs for the season, for the fifth time in his career, reached 101 from 75 balls and perished, finally, for 121 when Sidebottom found some swing with the new ball.
Bell by now was somewhat becalmed, taking an age to edge his way to 92, but provided he begins the final day sharp of mind, he should give himself a timely confidence boost and complete his 26th first-class hundred.