Archive for the ‘jonathan trott’ Category
Friday, March 30th, 2012
I’d like to know what was going through Mahela Jayawardene’s head when he was given the captaincy of his country for the second time around in January.
Anyone who heard Kumar Sangakkara’s Spirit of Cricket speech last July knows Sri Lankan cricket has been in turmoil for some time now. The mess it’s gotten into hasn’t been as dramatic as that of West Indies cricket, but it’s been an unsavoury tale of internecine bickering, political interference and withheld payments. At one stage the ICC even had to step in to pay the cricketers, since the World Cup team haven’t been paid since last April.
If any of this gave Jayawardene a sinking feeling of “here we go again,” or even, in the words of Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon movies, “I’m getting too old for this shit,” he hasn’t said. But since he’s regained the captaincy Sri Lanka have played positive, fighting cricket. Tillakaratne Dilshan found the captaincy crown an ill-fitting, weighty burden. He and his batting struggled under it; every time he went out to the middle he seemed to have storm clouds wreathed around his brow. He looked, as PG Wodehouse once wrote, like a man who has searched for the leak in life’s gaspipe with a candle. If ever there was the definition of a reluctant leader, Dilshan was it.
Mahela is cut from a different cloth; he doesn’t suffer fools but at the same time is his team’s even-tempered axis. Though it helps he has experience where this particular gig is concerned, leading by example seems a straightforward, reasonable requirement for the job as far as he’s concerned. When your country calls, you answer. The first Test at Galle in this series against England has been a masterclass of leadership and personal achievement. The prospect of failure becomes no longer an insurmountable obstacle to be crumbled before, but a challenge.
There was never the outright suggestion in the various previews that Sri Lanka would be a pushover for England after their UAE drubbing, but the many comparisons between the bowling attacks of Pakistan and Sri Lanka tended not to flatter Mahela’s men. After England were bowled out yesterday attempting an historic run chase of 340, it’s clear that what we were mostly guilty of was a gross underestimation of England’s ability to learn from their mistakes. The beatings will continue until morale improves. Or not.
Jayawardene may no longer have a Murali to turn to, but the last four days have shown that honest workman-like spin can trouble England just as well. Granted, the wicket was not quite as benign as some would have had us believe, but help for the spinners was more apparent during England’s second innings when they ironically made a better fist of things than in their first, when they were all out for 193 in under 47 overs. Their second innings was at least propped up by a magnificent century by Jonathan Trott – the slowest of his seven Test hundreds, the pacing of which was absolutely necessary – but their first was a baffling, kamikaze rush to disaster; if there was one consolation in seeing England batsmen give their wickets away through a slavish insistence on the sweep and a lemming-like urge towards self-annihilation, it was that at least they seemed in a hurry to put us all out of our misery.
Trott (along with Matt Prior and Ian Bell in supporting roles) aside, if England’s batsmen needed a masterclass on how to build an innings, Mahela Jayawardene provided them with a blueprint. The Baroque flourishes of Dilshan and other pyrotechnicians are not for him; his is a more Palladian architecture, with an adherence to first principles: balance, solidity, adaptability. Ornamentation and exuberance come after, when the edifice is sound. His batting is all clean lines, elegant simplicity, form through function. He came to the middle when Sri Lanka were in dire straits at 11-2, and on the rocks at 15-3; from then on it was a case of standing firm against the storm and keeping his side in the game with a magnificent 180. Of course, it’s not the first time he’s done this. His 115 against New Zealand in the 2007 World Cup – in which he started his innings with watchful circumspection and ended up pasting Shane Bond all round Sabina Park – is a particular standout. In Tests, he now averages 89.64 against England at home.
The components of England’s loss look unfortunate in isolation but disastrous when taken as a catalogue of mishaps, pratfalls and heat-addled shot selection. Mahela was dropped four times, Broad’s front-foot no-ball was revealed with tragicomic timing after the team had riotously celebrated bowling Sri Lanka out, and even England’s second innings seesawed repeatedly between hope and bathos as Jonathan Trott’s marathon innings was punctuated increasingly by his partners at the other end falling by the wayside through their own ineptitude – a Homeric epic interrupted constantly by advert breaks for double-glazing featuring second-rate comedians.
England must win in Colombo if they are to retain their number one Test status. The most worrying thing about this run of Test failures – four on the bounce now – is that while it’s tempting to look forward to a happier summer when England play the West Indies in May, the confidence of some players might be so shot by then, and the pressure on them to justify their selection so overwhelming, that Devendra Bishoo and Sunil Narine may end up causing them a very big headache indeed. After being put through the wringer in the UAE and Sri Lanka, it might just be a case of one spin cycle too many for England’s batting delicates.
Saturday, July 23rd, 2011
I have been present at three of Kevin Pietersen’s five Test centuries at Lord’s.
I wasn’t present when he raised his bat after smearing the ball through the covers for four to bring up his 202*, but I was there to watch him lay the cornerstone, making bricks out of mud and constructing the foundation of a major personal achievement and a big England total through hard bloody graft.
The first day of this Test was a frustrating one for spectators, topped and tailed by rain, runs at a premium, Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar threatening with the new ball under a gloomy sky that made it hoop and swing.
I only go to Lord’s about twice a year these days – the provincial on day-release to the Big Smoke – but it’s a magical place even when it’s raining. I’m still recovering two days later due to acute shoulder knack after carrying all the assorted junk needed for a day at the cricket when the weathermen can’t make up their minds as to when it’s likely to chuck it down, and besides, one never knows when one will miss one’s last train back to Hobbiton and be forced to construct a shelter for the night made of sticks, cardboard boxes and a shopping trolley. It pays to be prepared. Add to that the accumulated spoils along the way of newspapers, programme, obligatory book purchased from the Lord’s shop, and I feel like a squaddy who’s done a ten-mile run with a full pack. Maybe I’ll be lucky and regain full use of my arms by Wednesday.
Anyway, while Day One didn’t give us much in the way of action, in the light of Kevin Pietersen’s mighty knock yesterday it’s interesting now looking back on the notes I made when I got home on Thursday. Pietersen looked like the proverbial long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs that day; the ball found the edge of his bat more than the middle, and England didn’t so much look in top gear as they resembled a pensioner backing a Lada Riva estate out of the driveway and onto a busy street via a sharp turn, the cat, and the cunningly placed tricycle belonging to the kid next door.
While Pietersen looked undeniably nervous, there was also a grit-your-teeth determination to him, to make it through the day and grind out the runs now matter how hard, or how ugly, they came. It is easy to say this with hindsight, but I had a feeling today would be the day which, by the application of sheer bloody-mindedness and strength of will, would be the acorn from which a mighty oak would grow.
You could point to the support of Ian Bell and Matthew Prior at the other end while KP was accelerating through the gears yesterday, but to me his most important partnership was with Jonathan Trott on the first day, because that was when runs for Pietersen came the hardest. He finished Thursday on 22*, while Trott outscored him on his way to another inexorable 50. If Trott had departed before play was called off due to bad light, the unsettling effect on Pietersen could have proved disastrous for his search for fluency.
Trott gets his 50
That fluency was in full, imperious flow by the time Pietersen raised his bat yesterday to acknowledge the applause marking his third Test double century. His second came seven months ago in Adelaide, and while it does not feel that long ago, sprinkled as it will remain with Ashes stardust, seven months is an eternity in cricket, and in a batsman’s career.
Forgive me if I’ve gone on about this before, but the public’s relationship with Pietersen proves endlessly fascinating to me. There’s of course been all the ruckus over his vulnerability to left-arm spin, which seems finally to have been laid to rest (Strauss is now the subject of the spotlight’s glare due to his own unfortunate weakness facing southpaws) and the frequently expressed view that no one should be given a free ride due to past brilliance if this brilliance is constantly “on the cusp” of returning.
With KP, though, there’s always the sense of schadenfreude when he’s out of nick, as if he is paying the price for his arrogance, and the urge to kick a man when he is down is a temptation many are too happy to give in to. When Pietersen does well, it is expected of him; when he does not, the glee, the carping over his South African heritage, the barbs levelled at his “ego”… well, it all provides good tabloid fodder when often there is precious little else to write about. So it goes. No doubt he is used to it.
Pietersen’s first 50 runs came from 134 balls; the 50 that took him to 100 from 82. From 100 to 150 took him 85 balls; from 150 to 200 only 25. By the end he was seeing each delivery like the proverbial football; Ishant Sharma the lugubrious, floppy-haired victim of this late and gloriously unrestrained hitting.
I wasn’t present to watch Pietersen in full, triumphant flow yesterday, but on Thursday I saw him do the donkeywork. I missed the edifice’s completion, but I was there when the first stone was laid, and that feels as great a privilege.
KP lays the foundations
Finally, another thing I’ve liked from the play so far has been the relative lack of rancour between the two sides, but we are of course only on day 3 of a possible 20 possible days of Test cricket (16 according to a confused Jonathan Trott in his amusing interview the other day) so there is time yet for a vigorous ejection of toys from prams.
The banter between Pietersen and Praveen Kumar especially has been good to see. These two know each other from the IPL (ex Bangalore team-mates) and the moment in which PK congratulated KP, and vice versa – Praveen having stepped up admirably in the absence of a hamstrung Zaheer to take his maiden Test 5-wicket haul – was a great moment.
Having had a discussion recently with another cricket fan on Twitter as to whether the notion of “the gentleman’s game” has ever been anything other than rose-tinted romantic idealism, it was a pleasant reminder that decency and respect for the opposition does not need to be a casualty in these days of spiralling sponsorship deals and endless arguments over technology.
Still, early days… This series has a long way to go yet.
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
With a first day wicket so flat it looked like the proverbial road to nowhere, this 1st Test instead proved a considerably bumpier affair for the team that found itself on the losing side.
Because yes, in spite of the bore-fest of the first four days, some superb batting performances notwithstanding, this encounter that looked like dribbling to a stale, bloodless, rain-diluted draw ended up anything but.
The moral of this story seems to be, if you are an England fan and you wish to attend the Cardiff Test – only go on Day 5. The first four days will be shit. The last day will be awesome.
In the run-up to the Test the brickbats in the press were reserved for Sri Lanka’s bowlers, but it was the batting that ended up being steamrollered by England yesterday.
A first innings total of 400; England reply with 496 declared (big runs for Cook, humongous runs for England’s Bradman, Jonathan Trott, and a handy ton for Ian Bell) and Sri Lanka all out for 82: more wickets than you could shake a damp umbrella at – all of them in fact, courtesy of Messrs Tremlett, Swann and Broad and the whole thing wrapped up in 24.4 overs, albeit after another late start due to this horrible bloody weather that seems to be paying us all back for the temerity of enjoying an unseasonably early spring.
How much did this bring back memories of this same ground against different opposition in 2009, and how badly must Sri Lanka have hankered after their own Jimmy and Monty double-act?
The bowling by England was too good. Swann made use of the rough outside off-stump that had given Rangana Herath some encouragement, and England team-sheets should now come pre-printed with Chris Tremlett’s name on them as standard. The old days where the latter’s perceived lack of bottle was questioned seem now to be part of some ridiculous alternate reality.
Jonathan Trott continues to astound. I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m a big fan of the bloke, because one of the great things about cricket is that it can provide a happy hunting ground for the oddest of talented eccentrics, and Jonathan Trott surely numbers among them.
Aside from all his scratching and muttering at the crease, and his OCD dressing room habits, there is also something amusingly Hakkinen-esque about his interviews. The great Formula One champion Mika Hakkinen was famed for his laconic utterances and his deadpan statements of obvious fact, all with a barely raised eyebrow that put paid to accusations of a lack of humour or intelligence.
When Trott (unbeaten on 125 on his way to an eventual 203) was asked at the end of the third day what England had to do to win this match, he responded, deadpan: “Score more runs than they do”.
And that is what England did, to the tune of an innings and 14 runs worth.
And that with three bowlers. Jimmy Anderson has been ruled out of the Lord’s Test with a grade one side strain and Jade Dernbach, most likely due to his performance in the Lions match, has been drafted in to the squad – though I’d be very surprised if Steven Finn was not an automatic inclusion in the XI come Friday morning.
There’s been a degree of agitation about the prospect of yet another South African born player pulling on an England shirt – which some folks really need to get over – but it’s another man of South African origin and erstwhile our brightest star who is the real source of concern.
We are talking about Kevin – again. This is the 19th time in Tests he has fallen victim to a left-arm spinner and denying there is a problem will not make it go away. It is real and it is messing with his head and there is going to have to be a drastic resetting of his entire approach if he is going to fix it.
Even before Herath got him, as he tried wildly to chop the ball to the off side with the result that it rebounded from pad onto bat, his footwork had all the assuredness of a stricken animal scrabbling for purchase on the blood-slick floor of an abattoir before the slaughterman puts it mercifully out of its misery. It was truly painful to watch, with a messy, protracted denouement: the on-field decision of not out was overturned on review with the aid of hotspot, which showed a clear mark on the pad together with a side-on view that showed ball hitting back leg before bat.
Pietersen’s mind seems now so scrambled that even the most innocuous left-arm trundler must seem like the devil incarnate. Perhaps he needs to heed Jonathan Trott’s advice – to keep it simple – because these demons need exorcising, and pronto.
What a bizarre Test this has been. Seems I was a bit previous in writing off this match, but then I get the feeling I wasn’t the only one. I like it when cricket proves me wrong. I like it when Test cricket proves me wrong.
Saturday, December 4th, 2010
When Alastair Cook was interviewed in front of the Adelaide Oval pavilion after close of play on Day 2 of the Second Test, he didn’t look like a man who had finished the day on 136 not out.
He did not look like a man who has scored 438 runs so far this series, or been on the field of play for all bar 11 overs to date, or, counting his epic second innings at the Gabba, batted for 1022 minutes without being dismissed.
He looked like a man who had had a bit of a net.
He looked as fresh as a fucking daisy.
As Australia’s seamers pounded in for over after over under a searing Adelaide sun it was a case of spent, rather than unstoppable, force meets immovable object.
Gone is the leaden footwork, especially against spin; gone is the stiff-legged hesitancy that minimised scoring options and left him stuck in his crease; gone is the suicidal tendency to waft outside off stump.
He has not so much reworked his technique as stopped worrying about it and gone back to how he used to play. The result is that he is now playing with the kind of regained confidence and technical assuredness that grinds down bowling attacks expecting easier prey.
It seems that every time he goes out to bat now, another record falls.
Aside from runs scored and minutes batted – breaking the records for both for an England player – he is now the second most successful England batsman to play in Australia in terms of average, and the first for ten years to follow a double century with a century.
All this and he is only 25 years old. Only Sachin Tendulkar had scored more centuries than him by the time he reached the same age.
After the early loss of Andrew Strauss, Cook and Jonathan Trott continued their consolidation of the record for England’s most successful second wicket partnership. Trott’s innings was an especially swashbuckling one – before lunch he was cracking along with a strike rate in the 70s – and his superlative onside play (shades of the great Gordon Greenidge at times with that raised left leg) was once again augmented with sweetly-timed driving through the covers.
Trott’s was the only other wicket to fall, and Kevin Pietersen set about the bowling in brisk and imperious fashion. It is no surprise that he targeted Xavier Doherty in particular, given Doherty has been included in this Australian side at the expense of Nathan Hauritz purely because of Pietersen’s recent, and self-inflicted, vulnerability against left-arm spin.
The way England have been batting recently, Doherty must have been wondering if he’d ever get a crack at the man he is supposed to unsettle. Pietersen, dancing down the wicket and at one stage driving the unfortunate young Tasmanian back over his head to the boundary, was very plainly having none of it.
Pietersen is back, and all is right with the world.
He and Cook will need to continue where they left off. England are 72 runs ahead. Andrew Strauss must surely be eyeing a total in the region of 600. If England achieve this – and there is, of course, no guarantee – Australia will need to dig deep if they are to escape from this with a draw.
Monday, November 29th, 2010
One by one, the records fell.
By the time Andrew Strauss called Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott in – yes, that would be the same two who started the day with their team only 88 runs ahead – England had not just sacked Fortress Gabba, they had taken up residence and were throwing a party complete with hookers, coke and midgets.
In a veritable orgy of statsporn, England’s second innings total of 517-1 declared, with Cook on 235 and Trott on 135, encompassed the following milestones:
- This is only the 6th time a team has passed 500 without losing more than one wicket. It is also England’s highest total for one wicket down.
- Alastair Cook’s 235 not out is the highest Test innings at the Gabba, surpassing Don Bradman’s 226 against South Africa in 1931.
- Cook’s 329-run stand with Trott is the highest by an England pair in Australia, and, perhaps most satisfyingly, is the highest partnership ever at the Gabba, usurping Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin’s 307-run stand in the same match.
Who could ever have predicted all this when Andrew Strauss directed only the third ball he faced straight into the hands of Mike Hussey at gully on Day 1?
It’s been a strange match, a roller coaster of a match; a match where if you were an England fan you girded your loins and prayed that England would escape the Gabba with at least their dignity intact.
They have done more than this, much more. Aside from the bare facts of the draw, and the graphs and charts and numbers that flashed up on the screen with almost dizzying regularity during Cook and Trott’s marathon stand, the psychological advantage England now has heading into the 2nd Test is perhaps the most important accoutrement they will take with them on the plane to Adelaide.
Alastair Cook’s celebration on reaching his double ton was an unalloyed joy to watch. I am holding my hand up here to admit he has never been my favourite player; the flaws in his technique, big runs scored against small opposition, his early anointing as future captain by the England management for no immediately obvious reason, are the reasons why I’ve never really warmed to him as a batsman.
He will never be the prettiest of stroke-players, but the fact this knock was so important within the context of the match – salvaging a draw that had looked extremely unlikely after England’s paltry first innings total of 260 – must be recognised for the gutsiness and downright balls it took to compile.
Jonathan Trott continues to be England’s anchor. He now has over 1000 Test runs in 2010, and with his average now at 59.95, is England’s most successful number 3 for 50 years. There has been talk of Ian Bell perhaps being promoted up the order in the future, but Trott has made this position his own and I cannot think of anyone else I’d rather see walking out to the middle when the first wicket goes down.
Australia, if not quite up the proverbial creek, needs to carve itself a paddle and quickly.
Doug Bollinger and a fit-again Ryan Harris have been added to the squad for the 2nd Test after Mitchell Johnson showed his absolute loss of form and confidence with a performance that was nothing short of abysmal. If his Test match could be encapsulated in a single ball, it would be the one he bowled round the wicket to Jonathan Trott and that disappeared down the leg-side for 4 wides.
Steve Harmison would have been able to sympathise.
The Australian selectors, however, may be of another mind entirely.