Wednesday 24 January 2018

Trott slow, steady and setting the Ashes on fire

Australia are struggling to counter batsman's methodical approach, writes David Hopps

No England batsman in history has a higher Test average than Jonathan Trott.

Herbert Sutcliffe matches him exactly, but the rest of the great names trail in their wake. You may suspect such a statistic cannot be taken seriously. But Trott will take it seriously. He is a serious man.

Trott logs life, analyses it for solutions, occasionally looks baffled by it. He thinks like he bats: in straight lines. Ask him how he has a Test average of 60.73 and he will probably frown slightly and explain that you simply divide the runs scored by the number of times out.

England cricket fans have learned to love him. He would be the sort of practical neighbour you need; the one who appears in a thick winter coat to clear snow from your drive, the one who even keeps his own stock of rock salt.

Twenty innings is the accepted minimum at which a Test average is deemed to be significant and Trott has now played 26. His average has swollen to 60.73. When you make a 100 at The Gabba, it does tend to have a positive effect on your statistics.

A split second before he was dismissed for 78 here in Adelaide, working Ryan Harris to short mid-wicket where Michael Clarke tumbled to take the catch, Trott even had a higher batting average midway through his 15th Test than anybody in the world but Donald Bradman. Some things must remain unachievable, especially on the ground where the famous red-roofed stand bears The Don's name.

Add in their unbroken stand of 329 in the first Test at The Gabba and Trott and Alastair Cook batted for more than nine and a half hours and scored 502 runs before Australia managed to split them. But Trott still looked furious at his error. In that single moment he did not blow the chance of another Test 100, but he fell to fourth in the world list, behind Bradman, Graeme Pollock and George Headley.

Trott takes painstaking care over every delivery, and the fans have learned to love him: the obsessive scratching of his guard in the Athelstone clay, the regulated walk to square leg between every ball, the obsessive practice shots, the orderly nature of his approach, with every shot aimed exactly in the right place at the right time.

He might have been run out by Xavier Doherty on six, from roughly the same position as Trott had run out Simon Katich in the first over of the Test the previous day. Trott had steadied himself, aimed and hit.

Doherty -- who has the rolling gait of a fisherman who has spent too long docking in Hobart Harbour -- threw wildly, as if tossing a sprat back into the sea.

Michael Hussey then let a catch creep through his legs at gully when Trott was on 10. This was not so much poor fielding as self-flagellation.

Australia have tried bowling straight at Trott, only to find he routinely works the ball through the leg side with utmost security. He watches more expressive batsmen pull balls through square leg with a big flourish and sees no sense in such extravagance. He pushes his boundaries through square leg watchfully, in essence defensively, played with vertical bat and late turn of the wrists. It is here, in a stroke of striking restraint, that he is at his most masterful.

Long before lunch, Australia had switched to bowling wide outside off stump, in the hope that Trott would lose patience. But he becomes more discerning with every Test. This one was only in its second morning and, if logic demanded it, he would contentedly leave the ball all day.

The theory was raised in a media conference last week that Trott's refusal to chase wide deliveries from Mitchell Johnson had played a large part in Australia's decision to drop Johnson for Adelaide; that he had "made Johnson bowl to him". Trott looked bewildered by the observation. "That's what Test batting is all about, isn't it?" he said.

As he explored the theory, spectators slumped into their seats, pulled caps over their eyes and waited for something more skittish from Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen had been padded up, the next man in, for much of the past week. It had even been reported that he had thigh-pad rash. Trott, nothing if not practical, would suggest he bought a cream for it.

Australia, Peter Siddle especially, finished by bouncing him. Trott rarely hooks, preferring the sort of ugly, safety-first nudge behind square employed by Steve Waugh. Bowlers thought they could get Waugh out like this for years and never did.

They will now think the same about Trott. He can prepare himself for some short stuff.


Sunday Independent

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