'Machine' Trott back in working order
England Lions 507 for 6 (Trott 176*, Vince 78, Rashid 78, Bairstow 63, Kleinveldt 4-100) lead South Africa A 504 for 8 dec by three runs
It was not the cauldron of Brisbane, the pitch was shorn of pace, the attack, ultimately, devoid of energy, and the smattering of spectators were not remotely inimical towards him. Yet for Jonathan Trott to mark his return to representative cricket with an unbeaten 176, batting for nine hours, was some achievement. No matter that too many balls were directed at his pads, feeding his favourite clip through midwicket, for these were prominent runs.
Trott was never sated, not even in temperatures which were well above 30 degrees. He collected his runs just about everywhere, off all manner of bowling, adding century partnerships with James Vince, Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid. There was no indication of emotion when he reached three figures, just a tug on the buckles of a pad and a brief kiss of his England helmet. No ostentatious fist pumping or imitation of the high jump.
Apart from having been dropped the previous day when on 7, Trott gave no chance. Once, he cut Ryan McLaren uppishly past a wide slip, but otherwise there was a lovely flick through the leg side to the midwicket boundary and a controlled, cover-driven four, both off Dane Piedt's offspin, that were masterly shots. In fact just about everything about this innings, including his emotions and his judgement of a run, was thoroughly controlled.
Trott had resumed on 57 and was briefly outscored by Vince, who reached his half-century off 108 balls with eight fours, despatching Beuran Hendricks through the leg side and, in cutting Chris Morris for four, bringing up their century partnership off 290 balls. The South Africa A attack once again was dependant on Northampton-bound Rory Kleinveldt, whose medium pace looks to have come on since he had an unremarkable summer with Hampshire in 2008.
Now, he had Vince, who that year was still in Hampshire's academy, caught at slip, cutting without moving his feet. So ended a partnership, a match-saving one, of 165 from 53 overs. Vince has benefited through coaching from both Andy Flower and Graham Thorpe on this trip, the upshot being 78 with 12 fours from 171 balls. Very few of his runs are ever scratchy.
Piedt, who is a cousin of Hendricks - they are both from the northern suburbs of Cape Town - should have had Bairstow stumped on 22, having beaten him through the air. Rudi Second, who dropped Trott on Monday, a difficult chance, should have snaffled this opportunity. A further three-figure partnership followed, the Yorkshireman lofting Piedt for six to long-on and reaching 63 from 75 balls before Kleinveldt brought one back into him and beat his checked drive. His innings included nine fours.
Rashid became the third batsman to bring up a century stand with Trott, his 78 from 105 balls carrying less significance than Vince's innings but full of wristy uppercuts and drives nonetheless. It made up for his rather expensive bowling and was a counterpoint, more than useful at this stage of the innings, to Trott's remorselessness on the ground on which he represented Boland when straight out of school. "Like a machine," said Mark Robinson, the Lions coach, and indeed he was.
Trott, having reached his 37th first-class century shortly after lunch, simply ground on, making his 176 runs from 350 balls with 14 fours. He was fit enough to manage an all-run four in the final over, when the Lions took the lead. His last first-class century in England colours (or, more accurately, helmet) was against a Western Australia Chairman's XI at the start of the 2013-14 tour of Australia. By now, even Kleinveldt, who has known Trott since boyhood and who had tried everything from short-pitched bowling to men out for the hook and still more men to close off his scoring through midwicket, could not come up with anything innovative.