Trott double-ton confirms appetite
South Africa A 504 for 8 dec (de Bruyn 202*, Cloete 123, van Zyl 65, Plunkett 4-91) and 92 for 2 drew with England Lions 624 for 8 (Trott 211*, Vince 78, Rashid 78, Bairstow 63, Plunkett 55, Brooks 53*, Kleinveldt 4-127)
A group of club cricketers flew in from freezing England to take in the final day here before commencing their tour and simply could not believe how hot it was in the Boland Park bowl. The temperature was up to 42 degrees and, for the first time in this fixture, there was little in the way of a Cape breeze. All credit, then, to Jonathan Trott for batting for 647 minutes, finishing with the fourth double-century of his first-class career, before both sides settled for an early draw at the start of the tea interval - not least on account of the heat.
By then, England Lions had declared with a first-innings lead of 120 and made scant headway when South Africa A went in a second time. They did dismiss Gihahn Cloete, leg before to Boyd Rankin, playing back, and Stiaan van Zyl, caught at the wicket off Adil Rashid, before the third-wicket pair consolidated.
The spectators were not, in truth, deprived of a full day's play because, the contingent from England apart, their countenances swiftly reddening, there were hardly any of them. Even Geoffrey Boycott, who entertained Jonny Bairstow, his godson, and fellow Yorkshireman Adam Lyth to dinner at his nearby home the previous evening, and who came to two of the four days cricket, stayed away.
So for the third day running, all attention was on Jonathan Trott. He is from the Cape and hence well accustomed to these temperatures, yet his fitness levels, praised by Graham Thorpe, England's lead batting coach, were quite something. To complete an all-run four in the final over on Tuesday would not have been for, say, Colin Cowdrey.
In addition to staying at the crease for so long, he did not offer a chance beyond one to the wicketkeeper when he had made 7, and clearly could have continued batting well into the afternoon had he chosen to do so. Had he been a more selfish cricketer, he might have gone after a triple century. Selectors tend not to ignore such innings.
He is, though, captain of this Lions side, and evidently enjoying the responsibility. His double-century was achieved off 384 balls in 599 minutes, including 17 fours. That is not a high proportion these days and he did not add to the tally before he declared. It told of how controlled this innings was, of how determined he was to win his Test place back. He was surprised on this final day only by one ball from Chris Morris, which lifted surprisingly from a dead surface and hit him so sharply on a glove that he dropped his bat upon setting off for a run.
Otherwise, his accumulation of runs was a given. Also, it was an ideal time for a lower-order batsman to come in and have a biff. Liam Plunkett did just that, twice straight driving the offspinner Dane Piedt for six, the second of these shots taking him to a half-century from 137 balls with nine fours besides. He hooked a bouncer to deep square leg and Mark Wood was bowled by Piedt, swinging across the line, but Jack Brooks entertained to the extent that he equalled his career-best score of 53. These runs came from just 38 balls with five fours and two sixes.
So the handshakes came at 3.10pm, the sun still over the yardarm - as it always seems to be in these parts. And by the time it rises again, the Lions will be on their travels once more. Their flight to Bloemfontein - not a holiday destination, so all too few of them - on Thursday is at 6am, necessitating wake-up calls at around 4am. Who said the life of a touring cricketer was all fun?