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January 11, 2010
Jonathan Trott's return to South Africa was always likely to be one of the talking points of this tour, and he has made an instant impression with a series of half-centuries in the Twenty20s, ODIs and, significantly, the first Test at Centurion where he helped to save the game with a determined 69.
Andrew Puttick, the Western Province opening batsman who played in the same first XI as Trott at Rondebosch Boys High School in 1996, believes that his ability to make it at the top level was never in any doubt.
"We were at school from the age of six together," Puttick told Cricinfo, "so we came up through the ranks and Jonathan was always the most talented batter in our age-group. From an early age he hit the ball a lot cleaner than most other guys and he had unbelievable placement, so I always knew Jonathan was good enough to play at the top level and it's no surprise to me that he's done so well."
While Trott's South African homecoming has not been quite as incendiary as his team-mate Kevin Pietersen's was in 2004, his return to his former ground in the third Test at Newlands was, ultimately, a successful one. Key to that success, according to Trott's half-brother Kenny Jackson, has been an increasingly mature temperament and approach to cricket.
"The big change, I think, from the kid that grew up in Cape Town to the man that you see represent England now is: he's changed mentally," said Jackson. "He was a little bit of a hot-head, and he's calmed down a hell of a lot and he's a mature man now. So I think that's the biggest thing that's changed."
Some things have not changed, however, and Puttick suggested that Trott's extended pre-ball preparations, which have been criticised by the South African team, are nothing new.
"No, he definitely had it as a kid as well, not as prolonged as it is now, but he definitely took his time between balls. I remember he used to get under the skin of the opposition back then even. He was one of those guys who just loved batting and he used to hog the strike. I remember at school he used to pat back five balls then get a single and I would end up standing at the other end for hours on end, and it was quite frustrating, but he's a single-minded cricketer and it seems to work for him."
Paul Phillipson, who was Trott's academy coach at Western Province, was neither surprised by his move to England, nor by his subsequent success there. "With Jonathan, you see, I think that there was always an Englishness about him through his grandfather," said Phillipson.
"I think that even though he was born and bred here, and brought up through the system, I think that it was always in the back of his mind that that was a place that he would like to make his home, and he's done it very successfully. Jonathan and Kevin Pietersen have shown their real desire and determination to make it, and they're obviously great assets to English cricket."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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