Trott destroys Australian hopes
Click here to listen to Jonathan Trott's press conference.
What had been billed a farewell bash for Andrew Flintoff became a debutant ball for Jonathan Trott. The ovation afforded to Flintoff following his sparkle-and-fade innings of 22 was upstaged by the rapturous reception granted to Trott upon completion of a century that all but secured the Ashes for his adopted country, and himself a date with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Trott became the 18th England batsman to post a century on debut, and the first to do so in an Ashes decider. Not since Teddy Wynyard in 1896 had England dared blood a debutant in the rubber match of an Ashes series, but Trott's steady temperament and compact technique vindicated the bold move of Geoff Miller's selection panel in their quest for a series-clinching victory.
Australia's bowling unit required two innings and 274 deliveries to dismiss Trott (he had been run-out by Simon Katich on Thursday), and only then on account of fatigue. Having reached 119 to complement his first innings 41, Trott cut a Stuart Clark offering tiredly to Marcus North in the gully, prompting another generous round of applause from The Oval faithful and entry into Ashes folklore.
It was at this ground four years ago that Kevin Pietersen posted a century to end Australia's Ashes dynasty and improve Afro-Anglo relations. Comparisons between the two are inevitable given their shared country of birth, but whereas Pietersen's innings in 2005 was a streaky, extravagant affair, Trott's was chanceless and methodical, advancing the England cause with neat drives, efficient cuts and deft tucks.
Australia had been advised by various county spies that Trott was susceptible to the short-ball, and vulnerable when playing off-to-leg. Presumably, those sources have now been bottled. As it happened, the tourists may have been better served reading the comments of Trott's old South African team-mates, none of whom anticipated their one-time colleague to be overawed by the occasion.
"I don't think the situation will overwhelm him," predicted Kenny Jackson, Trott's half-brother and former team-mate at Boland. "He's in the form of his life and he is certainly good enough." Steve Palframan, the former South African batsman who captained Trott at first class level, added: "He has what we call houding, which is presence and attitude. He was always one to puff out his chest."
And so he did. Trott had every reason to feel overwhelmed by the occasion when called to the crease with England at 39 for 3 and Mitchell Johnson charging in. And the butterflies should have assumed the proportion of vampire bats when Peter Siddle pushed his first delivery on Saturday through the batsman's defences, prompting a deafening chorus of appeals that failed to convince Asad Raud. Trott, though, appeared unfazed, pushing forth on a pitch that had terrorised the Australians the previous afternoon.
As Trott's total swelled, so did the value of his partnerships - 118 with Andrew Strauss, 32 with Andrew Flintoff, 43 with Stuart Broad, 90 with Graeme Swann and 40 with James Anderson. The tremors that swept through The Oval when Alasitair Cook, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood fell in quick time on Friday evening settled over the course of Saturday afternoon as Trott and partners pushed Australia ever closer to the precipice.
Trott's only genuine moment of concern came with his total on 97, when a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery burrowed into his defences and almost ricocheted from heel to stumps. The ball safely rolled by, however, and Trott raised his century two deliveries later with a glance to the boundary. The Oval rose as one. A new trans-continental hero had arrived.
"It's quite hard to describe now to be honest," Trott said. "I'll probably have to sit down and think about it and reflect on it. I don't want to do too much reflecting. Hopefully there will be a successful result for us and it will be even more special.
"At the start of the game the win was the most important thing and it still is. To have a personal achievement is an added bonus. You work hard at your own game to contribute to a successful side and I would like to think I've done that and we'll have a good day tomorrow.
"Obviously the selectors showed huge faith in me and I'm pleased to be able to reward them. I definitely felt I was in good form still and if the chance came I would hopefully grab it with both hands. I got the chance. I was gutted to get out for 41 in the first innings. Nasser [Hussain] said when he handed over the cap that when you get a chance you don't let them back in the game. That's what I tried to do today."
Trott's century at The Oval should force two outcomes: an Ashes victory and a place in England's winter touring party to South Africa. A trip to his country of birth and a showdown against many of his one-time team-mates - not least Graeme Smith - will prove a tantalising prospect for fans in both countries, and Trott is relishing the prospect.
"This is my home and I'm truly honoured to be sitting here after having a great day," Trott said. "It's something you work towards your whole life. Since the age of three, batting with my dad in the nets, and all the coaches I've had in my career, everyone's played their part in getting me to this position. It's my job to contribute to the England team and I'm glad I was able to contribute today.
"If the chance arises [to tour South Africa], that's brilliant. It's probably something I haven't really thought of, but it would be a great chance to play with the England side. It would be a huge honour to tour with them anywhere in the world."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo