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News

Hussey warns Trott of tough reception

Mike Hussey has warned Jonathan Trott that the step-up in class that he faces at The Oval on Thursday after the ECB dropped a massive hint about Trott's impending selection

Jonathan Trott guides one out to the off side during his unbeaten 161, Warwickshire v Yorkshire, County Championship Division One, Edgbaston, May 9, 2009

Jonathan Trott has been warned to expect a testing reception if he makes his Test debut at The Oval  •  Getty Images

Mike Hussey has warned Jonathan Trott that the step-up in class that he faces at The Oval on Thursday will be like nothing he has ever experienced before in his career, after the ECB dropped a massive hint about Trott's impending selection for this week's Ashes decider by withdrawing him from the England Lions team that started their two-day game against the Australians at Canterbury today.
In a week in which they have been tight-lipped about their intentions, the ECB said more in 25 words that they could have possibly have revealed in a ten-page dossier. Ten minutes before the toss, an email arrived from their communications department stating baldly that "Joe Sayers of Yorkshire has been called up to replace Warwickshire's Jonathan Trott in the England Lions team to face Australia at Canterbury starting today." And the rest was left to assumption.
And should the assumptions turn out to be correct, then Trott's Test debut, at the age of 28, will coincide with England's most eagerly anticipated fixture for four years. After 131 first-class matches spanning the best part of a decade, and with 8419 runs already to his name, he comes into the game with a pedigree that speaks for itself. But as Hussey himself knows from experience, you can go round the block as many times as you like. Nothing can prepare you for the pressures of top-level Test cricket.
"It is a huge step-up from first-class to Test, no question," he said. "Everyone feels pressure in Test match cricket, no matter whether you've been playing for ten years or two games. Particularly in an Ashes series, and particularly coming into a very, very important fifth Test. He'll certainly know all about it if he's makes his Test debut in that game."
Hussey certainly found out what he was getting into when he made his debut at the Gabba in November 2005, at the age of 30, and with the small matter of 15,313 first-class runs in the bank, many of them gleaned in a prolific stint as Northamptonshire's overseas player. His maiden Test innings was a torturous 1 from 14 balls which ended with an ungainly top-edged swish, and afterwards he complained that hearing that "bloody national anthem" had reduced him to a bag of nerves.
"I tried not to change too much about my game," Hussey recalled. "I wanted to stick to what had made me successful before, but certainly the lift in intensity of the game, and the lift of pressure and expectation among the fans and media around you, was pretty extreme and that's very, very hard to deal with as an international player. From my point of view it's important to block out as much external distraction as you can, and focus on your own game and hope that's good enough to get you through."
Hussey recovered his poise swiftly of course, with three centuries in his next four Tests. But Trott does not have that luxury. In a situation akin to Alan Wells' belated debut against West Indies at The Oval in 1995, everything hinges on this solitary opportunity, not just personally but from the national point of view as well. It would be unkind to recall what happened to Wells on debut, but as Hussey was implying, it's a curious moment to take a punt on a rookie.
We've got to keep it simple, keep the disciplines of the game pretty much the same as we bowl to most batsmen. Whether we're playing against Andrew Flintoff, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, David Gower, whoever it is, we've got to keep doing our things well for long periods of time.
Mike Hussey on the final Test
"We've not seen a hell of a lot of him," said Hussey. "A couple of us have played a bit of county cricket against him, and seen him on TV, but he looks a pretty good player to me. He's got a lot of confidence, and it looks like he's been around for a while so he understands his game well. But there is more pressure on England because they have to win that Test match, whereas we can win the Test, which we'll be trying to do, but if we can't win it we'll do everything we can do draw it."
Hussey admitted he had been surprised at England's decision to withdraw Trott from the Lions team at Canterbury, but didn't believe it had been done to shield him from the Australian bowlers. "We were expecting to see him play against us, but you can look at it both ways," he said. "It would have been a good chance for us to have a look at him, but also a good chance for him to have a look at our bowlers, and see where he can score some runs against us. It could have been helpful for both."
An ECB spokesman declined to offer a direct explanation for the decision, and simply pointed out that, with a century in his most recent match for Warwickshire, he was clearly in form and did not need the time in the middle. The reading-between-the-lines explanation, therefore, was that Trott had more to fear from media hype than from anything the Australian bowlers will throw at him on Thursday.
"I haven't been following what the press have been saying about their team, I don't even know when they name their squad for the last Test," said Hussey (it's on Sunday at 9.30am, for his information). "Whatever way they go, we've got to concentrate on our job. We've got to concentrate on playing hard, tough, disciplined Test cricket for long, long periods of time. If we can do that we're going to be competitive against whoever we're playing in this last Test.
"I'm sure the powers-that-be will be working closely to get some good plans on him, but to be honest the game doesn't change too much," he said. "We've got to keep it simple, keep the disciplines of the game pretty much the same as we bowl to most batsmen. Whether we're playing against Andrew Flintoff, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, David Gower, whoever it is, we've got to keep doing our things well for long periods of time."
Given the disaster that befell England at Headingley, and the frantic speculation that has followed, it is self-evident that Australia have enjoyed by far the better build-up to Thursday's pivotal contest. But Hussey was adamant that nothing that goes before the match is of any relevance. "All that matters is the first session of that fifth Test match," he said. "You can prepare as well as you possibly can, do as much as you can and send players off here, there and everywhere, but what actually matters is that first hour, and that's all we can focus on."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo