England v Pakistan, 3rd npower Test, The Oval August 16, 2010

Calm Trott returns to scene of finest hour

It is a year to the week since Jonathan Trott made his Test debut in the Ashes decider at The Oval, and after a year of highs and lows that would have tested the mettle of any cricketer, he is back at the scene of his finest hour, and in arguably the most liberated frame of mind since that remarkable week last August.

Trott's travails have been among the most documented of any of the England squad in the past 12 months. The ice-cool character who compiled twin scores of 41 and 119 on debut against Australia gave way with alarming haste last winter to a fidgety imposter whose temperament appeared to buckle during a tough return to his native South Africa, in particular when his peculiar and time-consuming rituals at the crease were dragged into the media spotlight.

But despite regular jibes about the security of his role, Trott's value to the England team was in full evidence at Edgbaston last week when, in front of his home crowd, he compiled half-centuries in each innings to ensure that England did not squander the advantage that their bowlers had earned in bowling Pakistan out for 72 on the first morning. No other batsman came close to matching the calm authority that he brought to his game, and on the eve of his return to The Oval to face Pakistan, it feels as though his career has come full circle.

"The last time I sat here it was a lot fuller," Trott joked as he returned to the press briefing room in the Oval pavilion. "It's been a year full of memories, starting here. In that time I've been working really hard on my game to improve as a player and contribute to winning matches and series for England. I think I'm a better player now. It may be a cliché, but I feel I've learned a lot from my experiences, and there are things I probably do differently now, or take a different approach to."

Regardless of the mixed reception that Trott has received since his elevation to the Test side, there's no arguing with the numbers he has crunched in that time. In 11 Tests he has racked up 923 runs at 51.27, while contributing to eight victories - including six in a row since the tour of Bangladesh in March - and just a solitary defeat, in Johannesburg in January. The manner in which his confidence has grown has mirrored that of the team as a whole, and he credits the management pairing of Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss for cultivating an atmosphere of inclusivity.

"Coming into a team is like getting a new job," said Trott. "You have to find your role in the team and the dressing room, and all of the background stuff is just as important as what you see on the pitch. But Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have a big emphasis on pulling the new players in and putting an arm around them. It's certainly not a feeling of being thrown in at the deep end and seeing if you can swim. It's put more positively. 'You can succeed at this level, you're good enough so go and take your chance'."

Leaving aside his brief and unsuccessful stint in the Twenty20 set-up in 2007, Trott's first taste of the England environment came ahead of the fourth Test at Headingley last summer, when he linked up with the squad amid concerns about Andrew Flintoff's fitness, but was eventually released before the match got underway. "I came down to have a drink with Andy and Straussy and I was made very welcome," he recalled. "It wasn't just a case of 'here's your room key, see you at practice'."

Missing that Headingley match turned out to be a blessing for Trott. England were routed by an innings inside three days, but instead of getting wrapped up in the post-mortem, he was able to save his energies for his remarkable rescue mission in the fifth and final Test. "I was fresh and excited, and champing at the bit to succeed and do well for the team," he said. "The other guys had been on an emotional rollercoaster and were so tired after the fifth game, so I had come in quite fresh and raring to go, so in hindsight that helped."

A feature of Trott's performance in that Oval Test was his purposeful footwork. He strode forward to the pacemen and spinners alike, and in so doing exuded a confidence that belied his debutant status. Some of that same authority was on display on a treacherous surface at Edgbaston last week, as Trott set himself to dominate where others remained diffident.

"Moving my feet well and in a positive manner expresses what I want to express, meaning good body language and good intent," said Trott. "I use the word intent a lot when I think about my batting, and when I'm at the crease I think 'is my intent right here, have I got my focus where I want it to be?' Intent to score runs is just as important as intent to leave and be defensive. Leaving the ball with minimal footwork is just as bad as playing and missing with minimal footwork."

Alastair Cook would doubtless relate to that sentiment, after another iffy display at Edgbaston took his summer tally to 100 runs in seven innings. His match ended when he was trapped on the crease by Mohammad Amir on the fourth and final morning, and though he boosted his morale by smacking a carefree 38 from 22 balls for Essex in the t20 semi-final on Saturday, his place in the team is unquestionably on the line.

Trott, however, offered his support and sympathy, after he himself had been forced to reaffirm his credentials following the tour of South Africa. "At the beginning of the Bangladesh series I was probably where he is now," said Trott. "It's only four Test matches since then, so it's amazing how things change. But whenever I see Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss at the crease I feel very secure, so I'm sure he'll be fine."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on August 17, 2010, 17:14 GMT

    Yet more nonsense about Englishmen born abroad. Why in the mind of some fans has cricket suddenly gone back to the world of Yorkshire before common sense set in, when the only way you could play for Yorkshire is if you were born there? These days sportsmen, like every other profession, move around to the place they want to be. There is a qualification process which ensures that players can't just hop from country to country and every player selected for England has been through it. Every country out there (and that includes Ireland, PatrickJM, which has several players born abroad) has or has had in the past players born elsewhere. England selects the best players qualified to play for England. End of story.

  • Hanah on August 17, 2010, 17:02 GMT

    @ PatrickJM: well.. you've got a point about Morgan. But I completely disagree with you about the rest of them. So what are England supposed to do, send Strauss, Trott, Pietersen and others back to South Africa with all their family and their ENGLISH parents??

    The complaints are not justified, I didn't know that the England cricket team was only aloud to full blood Britains. It's disgusting

  • Patrick on August 17, 2010, 14:52 GMT

    @-Aila-: the complaints about the makeup of the England team are completely justified. Arguably, they are cherrypicking mercenaries to the detriment of the worldwide game. A case in point is Morgan - he is a player who could have proved very useful to the Ireland team in its (hopefully) eventual transition to Test cricket. Now Ireland, robbed of the talent of its greatest batsmen, must scratch around for another good player that will improve their team and Irish cricket. Countries need these calibre of players to become Test match sides (see the effect of Murali/Ranatunga/da Silva on SL) and international cricket needs more Test match sides.

  • Martin on August 17, 2010, 9:33 GMT

    Good batsman, for sure. But for my money your best batsman goes at 3 and I don't think he's the best batsman in England. Ideally I would like to see KP come out of his slump and become the English Ricky Ponting... he's the benchmark really for a no. 3 batsman nowadays.

  • Hanah on August 17, 2010, 8:30 GMT

    I'm a bit tired of people complaining that the England team consists of South Africans. Immigration is legal you know ;) they all live in England and have all the rights to be in the national team. If you still want to complain, then complain about Morgan, who is Irish and plays for England, but still living in Dublin. Although I understand him, the guy is good enough for test cricket and Ireland doesn't offer that.

    Jonathan Trott is a fine batsman and I feel pretty comfortable with him at no. 3 at the moment. May he have a good second year in the test arena.

  • Niraj on August 17, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    @ Woody111: or an Irishman! God that Morgan guy is a real find a couple more of his talent and Ireland would totally make the elite ICC test status!

  • Luke on August 17, 2010, 2:03 GMT

    England, do yourselves a favour and get rid of Cook. You can't open the innings with a poor technique like his. Surely there's another South African around you can call up.

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