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September 11, 2010
Jonathan Trott has insisted England don't hold any 'grudges' against Pakistan despite the home side's impressive form being overshadowed by the spot-fixing allegations which have dominated the last two weeks and will linger until long after the tour has finished.
Since the controversy erupted England have completed a 3-1 Test series victory, won the two Twenty20 internationals and taken a 1-0 lead in the one-day series, but still the talk is dominated by the fall-out after the News of the World investigation which led to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir being questioned by police and suspended by the ICC.
The three players arrived back in Pakistan last night - slipping quickly out of the back door of Lahore airport - but that doesn't mean the issue has left the current series with Wahab Riaz, the left-arm quick, set to be interviewed next week by police in London and Kamran Akmal under the scanner for previous series.
As England defended their total at Chester-le-Street, Trott was involved in an ugly exchange with Kamran which required intervention from umpire Billy Doctrove, but Trott said it had nothing to do with the off-field issues and that England never use the controversy as a subject for sledging.
"It was just a few things that go on on the field. That's it really," he said. "I said a few words, and he was saying a few - and the umpires got in the middle of it, and made a mountain out of a molehill really.
"Whatever is going on in the background is none of our business. We don't talk about it really, on the field. We don't have any grudges, or anything. We just play cricket. The last thing you want is to be dragged down on the field. It's important we project a good image and play within the rules, hard but fair."
"As far as the England team are concerned, we go about our job - in another four very important games," he added. "I myself feel as though, whatever happened in the Test series, I've moved on and am looking forward to this one-day series.
"Whatever has happened is a closed case for us. All our jobs are just to play against 11 guys on the field against us. I don't think we can take off-the-field stuff on to it."
Shahid Afridi was in the dark over what words were exchanged, but said that he enjoyed playing an aggressive brand of cricket so long as certain lines weren't crossed by the players. "I'm afraid I don't know what went on. But I think it's part of the game playing good, aggressive cricket. I always enjoy cricket like this, it's good. But in a positive way, not using bad words."
Trott really doesn't have to resort to verbals on the field because his run-scoring is speaking for itself at the moment, but he could be forgiven for feeling a little bitter as his prolific form remains something of an afterthought. He has had a memorable summer which, in normal circumstances, with an Ashes tour looming, would be the major topic of conversation.
His outstanding 184 at Lord's was completed just a few hours before the initial spot-fixing story erupted and was quickly consigned to footnotes rather than backpage leads and he continued his form with 69 in the opening ODI at Chester-le-Street. Trott began the season with 226 against Bangladesh at Lord's then, having been recalled for the one-day series against the same team, hit 94 at Bristol and 110 at Edgbaston before his Man-of-the-Series display against Pakistan where he notched 404 runs in a bowler-dominated contest.
His one-day chance has come largely through Kevin Pietersen's absence both from the Bangladesh series and the current one against Pakistan. The No. 3 spot is Pietersen's home in the one-day game, but Trott is making a strong case to fill that crucial berth. Pietersen's one-day form had been poor long before he was dropped and although it's impossible to believe England could have a successful World Cup without him, Trott's success means he won't just waltz straight back in without pressure.
"There are quality players out of the side," Trott said, who is also up against Warwickshire team-mate Ian Bell for a long-term place in the one-day unit. "I have the opportunity to bat at three at the moment, and it's up to me to do the best I can. The last few knocks haven't been the worst. I'm pretty happy personally with how things have gone in the last few games. But I'm always looking to improve on areas I can work on.
"The guys know competition for places is really good, and in a good way. It's not people looking over their shoulders, but they know to play for this England team you have to be at the top of your game."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala