England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 3rd day May 28, 2011

The Cook-Trott duet launches England's summer

Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott reverted to their factory settings, and ground out a partnership that could have been teleported from Down Under
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If you squinted your eyes, it could almost have been the Gabbatoir. Actually, that's a bare-faced lie. The redeveloped Sophia Gardens may go these days by the shouty monicker of the SWALEC Stadium, but at heart it remains a provincial county venue, with no stand even half as high as the forbidding ring of concrete within which the Ashes were launched last November.

What is more, try as one might, there was no equating the intensity of that Australia campaign to the gentle meandering that took place in Cardiff today, as a rain-soaked series opener drifted past its halfway mark with only an outside prospect of a result being forced by either side. Nevertheless, out in the middle a familiar duet was revisited, as Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott reverted to their factory settings, and ground out a partnership that could have been teleported from Down Under.

It was bloodless and unrelenting, a precise continuation of the method by which Australia were crushed in the winter, and the first sign - after two days of relative struggle with the ball - that England's cricketers are primed and ready for the season ahead. By the close, Cook and Trott's alliance stood at an imposing 240, the highest stand ever made by an England pair against Sri Lanka. And yet, ominously, that figure was not even half the tally of 502 that the two batsmen amassed between their series-changing partnership at Brisbane and their game-breaking reunion in Adelaide.

The pair have had contrasting experiences since they were last at the crease together. Cook has been in stasis, preoccupied with the lambing season on his fiancee's farm in Wiltshire following his omission from the one-day team he now captains; Trott has been in the thick of things as England's World Cup No.3, somehow billed as both star and scapegoat for his uncanny ability to bat without blinking, regardless of venue or context.

"We are very similar in terms of mental approach, and we're quite happy to just bat in fives," said Cook, who has now played a part in 13 of England's last 20 stands of 150 or more in Test cricket - a testament to his extraordinary powers of concentration. "We're both stubborn guys and it suits our style of playing together. We always try to remind ourselves to get five more runs, then another five.

"The pitch was quite stodgy, slow and low. It was hard to score so we got bogged down at certain stages, but I'm pleased with the patience and application I could use to get through those periods, and not play a wild shot. I waited for ball to come into my area."

Rarely has any single England cricketer enjoyed a comparable run of form, let alone two in the same batting line-up. Cook's Ashes tally of 766 runs stole all the plaudits going this winter, but Trott's own haul of 445 at 89.00 was swiftly followed by 422 more at 60.28 at the World Cup, a prolific return that enabled him to match Kevin Pietersen and Viv Richards as the fastest batsman to 1000 ODI runs. His Test average by the close of play was a staggering 66.34, second only to the matchless Bradman, and with no obvious sign of flagging.

Those are some serious numbers, as serious as Cook's return of five centuries in his last ten visits, and his current tally of 17 before the age of 27. England's oft-stated ambition is to become the No. 1 Test team in the world, and though their bowling may have appeared under-cooked in the first innings, with that sort of an engine-room at their disposal, there are plenty reasons to believe that their quest is genuine.

"Trott's been a revelation for us since the Ashes 2009," said Cook. "To bat at No. 3 he's been fantastic and his stats are phenomenal. Just having that rock at 3 means our batting order is very settled. We've got every base covered at the moment, but we'll all continue working hard and never let anything rest."

Aside from a loose piece of running that might have led to a run-out for Thisara Perera, and a firm sweep from Cook that failed to lodge in short leg's hands on 87, neither batsman offered a chance of note. Trott got off the mark with a clip through midwicket for two, and how often this winter has that been his bread-and-butter? Cook dealt, as so often, in cuts through the covers and pokes off the toes, but all of those opportunities were crafted by the quality and certainty of his judgment outside off. He forced Sri Lanka's bowlers to chase him by refusing to flirt at anything in the channel.

Since breaking through the 150-barrier against West Indies in 2009, Cook has reached three figures on eight further occasions and only twice been dismissed for less than 148. "You never master it, but you can improve on it," he said of his new-found appetite. "Before Australia, I was talking to people about it, about how I hadn't gone on to big 150-plus scores - daddy hundreds. But the last couple I have done, and I'm pleased with the method I've used."

There are plenty caveats to be had, of course. Sri Lanka's attack was sadly toothless, neutered by a dead deck and by the clear lack of X-factor in the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga. Rangana Herath, their left-arm spinner, was anonymous, while their trio of seamers found scarcely a semblance of lateral movement. Zaheer Khan and his cohorts are unlikely to offer such meek opposition, just as Pakistan's seamers proved an entirely different proposition last summer.

But as a show of intent, England's batting was mighty impressive nonetheless. It may not have been the Gabba revisited, but then again, expectations have been transformed since that match. Back in November, such titanic feats of scoring were unheard of from an England line-up. Right now they are in danger of becoming commonplace.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on May 29, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    This is only the first test played on a typical flat batting track. next test could be very different. England are the most vulnerable team in the world when it comes to complacency and I know this because I am English. If they go in with a cock sure attitude and care free batting/bowling they may find themselves playing from behind. SL are fighters and they could shore up their bowling by the time next test comes around and if the track offers something to their spinners, then England may have something to worry about.

  • Bigwonder on May 29, 2011, 18:20 GMT

    Once again the question is evident, why are we still playing test cricket? Looking at this big hyped test series, it seems a mere net practice with no result. Batsman got good practice and collected runs. All the talk about dusty pitches with run fest in sub-continent is no different then a green pitch in this so called 4th-world country. Test cricket is turning out to be for the retired crowd who have plenty of time on their hand.

  • Lord.emsworth on May 29, 2011, 17:45 GMT

    I'm afraid Mr. Millers comments about the SL attack being 'Toothless' is just the plain truth. No need to take offence for that. Its just bad planning by the SL selectors. They brought in IPL bowlers Fernando & Pradeep who didnt play in several matches and sat out most of their time in the IPL dugouts. Did anyone check on their physical condition, regular training, dietary needs etc?. No wonder these guys breakdown.Malinga's injuries... could they have been avoided? The England tour was on the cards for a long time...Surely enough time to have nurtured at least a few new seam/fast bowlers? Too late for that but Vaas is a stones throw away (Literally) He is retired yes, but can be persuaded to come back.

  • dummy4fb on May 29, 2011, 16:57 GMT

    Abrar Meer -- STOP. Indian are not playing in this match and nor are Pakistan. Please keep quiet until those two sides are playing. You will get plenty of time to comment on India later in the season when they are playing England. PS They will be playing England in England so beware despite their great history of being worldbeaters away from home!

  • dummy4fb on May 29, 2011, 14:56 GMT

    Remember last year when Amir, Asif & Gul were here in England? I'm sure you do - Sri lanka and Australia's bowling lacks the quality Pakistan had. Even the current Pakistan bowling attack would be hard for Cook and Trott to get through. India's bowling attack may not meet the standards of Pakistan's however they are better than Australia, Sri Lanka. For England's sake; Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott carry on this form in order to get a series victory against the best test side in the world.

  • dummy4fb on May 29, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    Cook and Trott are two really good players. It is a pity that Trott started his international career so late; had he played another 72 test matches, he might have already made 50 test hundreds - anyhow watch out for Cook!

  • dummy4fb on May 29, 2011, 14:15 GMT

    Looking like a draw, big chance for KP to get a good knock under his belt early in the summer.

  • Deepsagar on May 29, 2011, 14:07 GMT

    That is good pair and good for england

  • stormy16 on May 29, 2011, 13:37 GMT

    I am afraid the rain seems the winner in this game unless something dramatic happens in the next two days which would be (1) Eng score faster (2) decleare behind and ask SL to set a target (3) SL have a dramatic collapse when and if they bat. Cant really comment much about the cricket other than say the SL attack looks weak at best and Eng batting is boaring but awfully effective.

  • dummy4fb on May 29, 2011, 12:43 GMT

    Finn 92

    Get with the time man, only the English value test cricket to such a high standard. People dont have the time anymore to watch 5 day games that can end up in a draw.

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