Trott's hunger hurts Australia
Some batsmen specialise in the counterattack, others major in attrition. Jonathan Trott, however, nestles into another comfortable and entirely enclosed genre, that of the specialist bloodletter. Like a medieval physician faced with a case of apoplexy, Trott draws his scalpel across the artery, and drains all tension from the situation until the patient is totally becalmed.
And so it was, on one of the most volatile days of the summer, with Ricky Ponting inviting ICC censure for his run-in with Aleem Dar and Peter Siddle pounding in on a still-lively track to give Australia the outside chance of a sub-200 deficit, Trott bedded in, zoned out, and finished the day on 141 not out. It was his third hundred in his first five Tests against Australia, the first England batsman since Michael Vaughan in 2002-03 to achieve such a feat, and for the second time in as many games, it moved England into a position from which an Ashes-sealing victory appears little more than a formality.
"I don't think it's anything about batting against Australia in particular," said Trott. "I've played five games against Mike Hussey and he's also scored three hundreds, so you might also have to ask him why he likes batting against England. It's just one of those things. I'm very fortunate. I work really hard on my game, along with everyone else in the team, and I'm just happy to be able to contribute to getting us into a good position."
A total of 67,149 spectators turned up to the second day at the MCG - some 20,000 fewer than attended on the first, but still the largest crowd that he had ever before encountered. Trott, however, anesthetised the lot of them as he treated the occasion with his habitual equanimity. "Each hundred you get is in different circumstances," he said. "This is definitely an important Test match and one I'll definitely savour. They're all pretty special but Boxing Day, [with] the hype around it and the support from the English fans, it would definitely be right up there."
Like South Africa's Jacques Kallis, a fellow Capetonian, Trott is not exactly a man to set the pulses racing, but it's hard not to admire the unfussy manner with which he goes about his work. All of the fuss, in fact, is fast-tracked into his ritual between balls, which involves constant guard-taking and crease-scratching, and enables him to expend any excess nervous energy and leave the business of seeing and hitting cricket balls to a combination of a sound instinct and a water-tight technique.
"Any batter that's out there in the middle, in the zone, is tough to bowl to - especially him," said Siddle, whose adrenalin-fuelled method has been thwarted by Trott in each of those three centuries. "It is tough work. The wicket is not offering a lot of bounce, which keeps it in his favour a little bit - knowing it's going to be pretty much up there for him on the front foot."
Trott's current average against Australia is a Bradman-esque 96.33, while his career average - at his overnight score - of 62.92 puts him second behind the Don in the all-time averages for batsmen who have made more than 1500 Test runs - a figure he ghosted past during the afternoon accumulation with Matt Prior.
As with the best of Trott's performances, notably his 184 in partnership with Stuart Broad at Lord's last summer, the latter stages were fuelled by an absolute certainty of outcome. The morning drizzle and early life had made survival tough for all the batsmen, and both overnight incumbents, Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, fell without significant addition.
But as the evening drew in and the crowds dissipated in droves for the second day in a row, Trott's love of crease occupation and eye for the loose delivery allowed him to ease to within nine runs of his third 150-plus score in seven months. To put that in context, Pietersen (on six occasions) is the only English batsman to manage more so-called "daddies" in the whole of the past five years.
"I think it's important I don't over-rev when I'm batting and try and over-hit the ball," said Trott. "Sometimes I find I'm a bit tense, it's too much. I try and be nice and patient and play my natural game, which is to accumulate here and there and let the other guys hit boundaries and sixes."
In fact, Trott was so under-revved, he claimed he did not notice or take an interest in any of the controversy that took place early in the second session, when Kevin Pietersen survived a caught-behind appeal off Ryan Harris that led Ricky Ponting into an angry discussion with umpire Aleem Dar. The only moment he was truly unsettled came when he inside-edged Ben Hilfenhaus onto the side of his kneecap.
"It was one of the most painful things I've felt in my life," said Trott, who required lengthy treatment after falling to the crease in a heap. "I asked for the runner to put the pads on and see how it went. I gave it 20 minutes to see if it stiffened up. It did a little bit ... but that'll teach for me inside-edging it."
That incident aside, Trott's resolve was scarcely tested, as he re-entered the zone that he and Alastair Cook had occupied on the final day at Brisbane, when England served notice of their series intentions with that formidable second-innings scoreline of 1 for 517. "Obviously the cloud cover was there and a bit of drizzle early on," he said, "but fortunately the sun came out this afternoon and the wind sort of dried the pitch out."
But despite the looming prospect of a very handsome victory, Trott was not ready to take anything for granted just yet, the very same trait that has served his batting so well throughout a memorable 2010. "We all know that the Australian team - like we saw in the last Test match - has got some good players," he said. "We're going to have to be at the top of our game to make sure we keep the pressure on them the whole time.
"I wouldn't say that they were demoralised," he added. "I thought they bowled pretty well today ... [but] things went our way. It was a good day for us but it's important to remember they'll come at us tomorrow morning and try and get themselves right back and get as many wickets as soon as possible. It's important I'm on my game from the start tomorrow. There's plenty of work for us left to be done in this Test match."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.