There was a story doing the rounds a while back that a few batsmen round the shires were thinking of robbing the Bank of England. It was not that they were short of money, with county wages being what they are these days, just that it would be easier to break into than England's batting order.
Four years ago when England last played Pakistan in a Test series the names of Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell were all there. All would be again this time too if Bell had not broken a foot and he will be back, it is to be presumed and desired, when the Ashes come round.
Continuity, however, is not quite what it used to be. Things are at last moving, spaces gradually appearing, the ground being prepared for the future. When the first Test begins at Trent Bridge tomorrow both Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan will be in the side, as they were for the two matches earlier in the summer against Bangladesh.
It is probably about time. The selection panel's policy of making sure players in the team are given every chance to cement their place has paid dividends over the past few year. It has helped to form a proper team ethos. No player comes in to play a single match (oh, unless it turns out to be Michael Carberry who was called up in the exceptional circumstance of Strauss missing the tour of Bangladesh last winter).
The dividends have not been quite as large as they ought to have been. None of these regulars in England's top order – all with more than 50 caps – averages above 50, only Pietersen nudges it at 49 and he himself would admit that he could do with scoring a few runs. Spotted, as ever, seeking out an extra net at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough yesterday, Pietersen is doing all he can to ensure that happens. The others all average between 42 and 44.
So Trott and Morgan have much to play for in the next few weeks. As it stands, it is difficult to see them both appearing in the first Test of the Ashes in Brisbane in November but show form against an extremely potent Pakistani seam attack for the rest of this summer and hands may be forced.
Trott, it will be recalled forever, made the most magnificent start in Test cricket. Called up at The Oval last summer for the decisive match of the Ashes last summer (when the selectors really did have no choice but to drop Ravi Bopara, their original preferred option as the England new batting wave) he made a sterling hundred in the second innings.
The innings was not quite accorded its due then and its compiler has not quite been accorded his due since. Part of this at first was because he is South African and has chosen to play for England rather than the land where he was born and learned his cricket.
But he is settled here, his wife whom he met at Warwickshire is English and expecting their first child: he is here to stay. Trott followed his debut by having a difficult winter of fitful returns. There were rumours that if a batsman were to go he would be it but they were probably only rumours and when Collingwood was rested for the home series with Bangladesh, Trott went out at Lord's and made 226. It is fair to say that it was much better at the start than by the end.
Trott, like Collingwood before him for much of the last five years, seems destined always to be the next batsman to be dropped. For some players it works like that. Whereas, for the delightfully expansive Irishman, Morgan, for instance, it is likely to be different. It is already possible to picture the "Save Our Eoin" campaigns in the future.
Determined, serious and feisty, Trott does not see the Pakistan series as a straight contest between him and Morgan for the last spot in a first-choice England side. If England were ever to opt for a mere five batsmen, which they seemed determined to avoid as though it were against all the tenets of a balanced side and would bring plague on all their houses, some would say both might be in trouble.
"That's from the outside," said Trott. "I don't see it like that at all. I see it that if you score runs you play, and if you're not, you don't." Trott speaks pretty much as he bats, with a studious determination and not too much flourish, though he does not thankfully take as long to prepare an answer as he does to receive a ball.
Trott's bits of business at the crease are already the stuff of legend. He takes an age to go through his pre-shot routine, marking his crease, like a tom cat scratching out its territory, then going for a spot of gardening down the pitch.
He plays the innocent on this perhaps a little too willingly. "I don't do it to get on anyone's nerves or be different," he said. "I just do it to be ready." Well, maybe, but it does obviously get on opposition nerves. Should he be doing it in Australia this winter, of course, it will be less irritating than heroic.
That maiden century at The Oval, a gritty affair which was never in doubt from the moment he came in (and he might have done it in the first innings had he not been run out) immediately raised the bar for him. It was suddenly assumed that he might be the new Pietersen, though they are patently different players and men.
"After my first Test match when I didn't get a hundred in my next Test match everyone said 'that was a flash in the pan'. To go out and get a double hundred confirms things to yourself. It's very pleasing to be able to do that at Lord's. I'm not going to rest on it though. I'm looking forward to scoring hundreds and double hundreds no matter where I play."
This matters to him hugely and though he has denied it, it probably matters to him more because of his background. He knows he will always have something to prove. His nature, the fact that his preparation needles the opposition, means that they will wish to needle him.
"As far as needle goes I would say I don't mind it," he said. "A bit of needle can be something that is blown out of proportion." August is a key month for Trott; he will not want for wanting.
Big Dipper: The fall and rise (against Bangladesh) of Jonathan Trott's Test average
v South Africa (Dec 2009/Jan 2010)
Centurion scored 28 and 69, Average: 64
Durban 18, Average: 55
Cape Town, January 20 and 42, Average: 48
Johannesburg, January 5 and 8, Average: 38
v Bangladesh (March/May 2010)
Chittagong 39 and 14, Average: 36
Dhaka 64 and 19, Average: 37
Lord's 226 (applauded by the MCC members) and 36 not out, Average: 53
Old Trafford 3, Average: 50
v Australia, The Ashes (August 2009)
The Oval scored 41 and 119, Test average: 80Reuse content