Cool Trott steps into the cauldron
The series against Pakistan starting in Dubai on Tuesday is England's first since they became the No. 1 Test team in the World, grabbing the title emphatically from India at home last year. It is an unfamiliar feeling for the team, but one in which they must thrive.
They have not been the best of starters away from home, as defeats in Multan, Brisbane, Kandy, Hamilton, Chennai and Kingston, and draws in Centurion and Brisbane, over their last 10 overseas tours, clearly show. Traditionally, England's conservatism when faced with different environs has been decisive in Test series openers, but there is hope that after becoming the No. 1 Test side they will shed those inhibitions.
If they do, you can bet Jonathan Trott will be at the forefront. The South African-born batsman has put up superb numbers for England in both Tests and one-day internationals, and looks set to be a fixture in the team for years to come. His success owes to a sure technique, an almost insatiable appetite for runs and the mental will power that has allowed him overcome the odds and critics to become a leading player for his adopted country.
Trott is a self-contained individual, preferring to focus on his own batting. He is known to spend hours in the nets fine-tuning his craft. His meticulousness is his hallmark, and the results are there for all to see. In 2010, over six Tests at home, Trott batted for over 33 hours, including a marathon 554 minutes for his 184 against Pakistan at Lord's. In Australia, he spent 20 hours in the middle, scoring 445 runs in seven innings as England won the Ashes. This ability to bat long periods will be Trott's biggest asset in the UAE, in sapping conditions and on dull tracks where domination means batting out sessions. That unflappability could be an oasis in the desert.
Trott's batting average of 57.79 after 23 Tests is the highest by some distance in the England squad, and is the highest for active batsmen. However, he faces a different test in Asian conditions (he has only played once in Asia, two Tests in Bangladesh for 136 runs at 34.00), though the conditions have never really effected his batting adversely. He did go through a bit of a slump after his century on Test debut - scores of 28, 69, 18, 20, 42, 5, 8, 39, 14, 64 and 19 in South Africa and Bangladesh - but ever since he hit his maiden Test double-century against Bangladesh at Lord's in May 2010 Trott hasn't looked back. Since then he has averaged 70.42 in 16 Tests, with five centuries and five fifties. His form in Tests and ODIs in 2011 earned him the ICC Cricketer of the Year title, and fully justified his presence as an integral member of the England set-up.
In the process, Trott has silenced his doubters and ended loose talk questioning his place in the side. Trott has admitted that his career might have never taken off if he had not decided to cut down on his drinking, but despite this wise lifestyle choice he has been aware that he had to produce the runs to keep the snapping wolves at bay.
Going into the Test series beginning on Tuesday, the composed, technically-gifted No. 3 three looms as a massive figure. In a line-up full of stroke-makers, Trott - like Alastair Cook above him - is the glue that binds the batting together, the anchor that gives the others the freedom and license to indulge themselves. His comfort in knowing that he must bat long periods almost unobtrusively while ungrudgingly allowing the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior to flourish has worked wonders for England. Trott knows that his team-mates appreciate and respect his efforts, and that has given him additional confidence.
A Trott century is not a thing of beauty. It can be sapping to watch, at times even bordering on irritating. But like any other substantial Test batsman, he prizes out runs when the team is in trouble and the bowling relentless. He grits his innings out. Nothing gives him more joy than spending long hours in the middle, blunting the edge of the opposition and picking them off when they bowl to his strengths, of which there are many.
Trott plays later than batsmen who nudge the ball around. He guides his shots into the gaps between fielders, relying more on the clinical precision of a surgeon than timing and power. He has lovely shots - his cover-drives are reminiscent of Michael Vaughan and some of his batting has the dexterity of Mahela Jayawardene - but he uses them sensibly instead of as a means to throw the bowling off-key. His significant knocks are memorable less for their scintillating strokeplay than their rock-hard effect. Just ask the Australians.
In the UAE, against quality spin in sapping conditions, Trott's ability to bat long could be an influential part of the series. It may not be pretty, but it will be engaging.
More about Jamie Alter
Having reconciled himself to the fact that he would never get paid to play cricket, Jamie Alter decided on the next best thing – writing on the sport. Having ditched a stint at an insurance firm in Boston, Jamie joined ESPNcricinfo where he worked for five years, covering cricket apart from trying to improve – unsuccessfully, ultimately – his technique against the short ball in office cricket. After taking a break to author two cricket books, Jamie joined CricketNext as editor in 2011.
- + India must revive its relationship with county cricket
- + What Australia would do for a Love, Hodge or Maher now
- + Who are you trying to fool, Mr Srinivasan?
- + Once upon a player: Robert Croft, Glamorgan legend
- + 'Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket' review: An elegy for Pataudi as he was
- + Slip catching is a thing of beauty
- + I was prepared to die out on the pitch: Lillee
- + India should bat Kohli at No. 3 in Tests
- + U-19 success comes with cautionary tales