Jonathan Trott: 'Trust me. we all want the same thing'

Jonathan Trott tells Stephen Brenkley why no one will care where he was born – as long as England win the 'ultimate tour'
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The Independent Online

When Jonathan Trott last played in a Test match, he assembled one of the great innings. It is worth revisiting because it was so rapidly overwhelmed, undeservedly swept aside in a welter of sleaze and match-fixing.

Yet it was a piece of work that not only helped to save England in the match but also confirmed that Trott can build an enduring career. Earlier this year, on a late August day at Lord's, which had been severely curtailed by rain, Trott went to the wicket to replace his captain, Andrew Strauss. He was eight not out overnight.

The following day, England's first innings in the fourth Test against Pakistan was reduced to rubble. They were 47 for 5 and 102 for 7. For the first time in a Test match, the numbers four, five and six all made ducks. The 18-year-old Pakistani fast bowler, Mohammad Aamer, was eating the English batsmen for breakfast.

At the other end, Trott surveyed it all and simply went about his business. He left, with consummate care, more than he played and when he played he made sure that he suffocated the vicious movement at birth.

It helped, of course, that he was joined by Stuart Broad who played with an unconfined joy. Together they went on to share a world-record eighth-wicket partnership of 332 which made England unassailable. Trott made 184, the second time he had made a hundred at Lord's that summer following his 226 against Bangladesh.

The remarkable quality of his innings – 383 balls, 284 from which he did not score, 19 fours – was still being weighed when all hell broke loose. England had taken a stranglehold on the match by the end of the third day but everything that had gone before or was to follow was devoured by the allegations of match-rigging levelled against the Pakistani bowlers, including the prodigious Aamer.

Perhaps it is this that prevents him from becoming excited about the innings, perhaps he thinks there are plenty more where that came from. This is the man who, selected for his debut in a match which would decide the Ashes, made a hundred which was clean as a whistle. But Lord's 2010 was something for the ages.

"I didn't go out when I was on nought and think I was going to play a fantastic innings," he said. "But I think the partnership with Stuart made it extra special. Having your name one under the other on the honours board is really nice.

"In the match before at The Oval funnily enough I didn't feel in that good a form. The fact that I was able to stick it out at Lord's was a good feeling and something I can draw on if that situation should arise again."

Stick it out? Draw on should the situation arise? Not half.

In its way that innings at Lord's was the culmination of a seminal year in Trott's life. It had started with a maiden hundred in his first Test, an Ashes decider, it had continued with a fraught tour of his native South Africa when his earnest, serious personality threatened to undermine him. Before it unravelled he rediscovered his touch in the English season and he and his wife have had their first child.

In the space of a summer he seems to have annexed the troubled No 3 berth in the England order.

But that did not mean necessarily that he felt at home. Trott's international career with England was contentious from its start. In the week before the final Test of the 2009 series against Australia, speculation was rife about the team.

Trott was selected and though it is hardly his fault, the fact that he was born, educated, and learnt his cricket in South Africa did not sit well in many quarters. That he was also a bottom-handed bludgeoner with not much style in the blue riband position in the batting order was not much help either. It was as if people had had enough of foreigners in the English cricket team. Trott has constantly countered this by declaring his Englishness and his love of the country from schoolboy holidays spent with his parents, his devotion to Birmingham, though he does so with a South African accent. In the early days of the Ashes tour, the Australians have mischievously made much of the South African background of Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior and the captain Andrew Strauss, although the latter two emigrated to England as boys. If it was meant to cause discomfort it appears to have missed its target.

"I think people like to talk about it, it's another angle for the four of us in this side," he said. "But trust me, all 17 who are here want the same thing. And whether you were born here or there doesn't really matter as long as you're all fighting for the same thing. This is the ultimate tour for an England cricketer."

After his extraordinary debut, Trott's first full assignment with England was the tour to South Africa last winter. If it did not all go wrong, it did not all go right either. As the trip went on, he sometimes seemed to be a man apart. He was out of form, the South Africans were letting him know what they thought, he gave the impression of being in a permanent state of soul searching.

"I think in the past I have been introspective, in the last few months probably not as much," he said. "There is no point in getting too worked up because the spotlight is on you already, it's all going to be done for you. I just go with it now and whatever comes your way, and as long as I have prepared myself in the best possible manner to perform, there is not much else you can do."

But still he appears uncomfortable, eager to be open but wary as well. It was not, he is prepared to admit, easy for him at first in the England side despite, or maybe because of that debut hundred.

"I think you're always going to be a little bit nervous going into a new team," he said. "It's like if you go to a new town and new people. Everything is foreign to you and it is a bit different with regard to the way you normally operate. If I had just stayed with Warwickshire it would have been a lot simpler and plain sailing. It's your job to feel your way in and find your role in the team, where you fit in, what suits you best and what the team expect from you. It's all about learning and going on."

Trott is serious, highly competitive and can be quick to anger. He was involved in a spat with the Pakistan bowler, Wahab Riaz, in the nets before a one-day international at Lord's towards the end of the English season. By that time with match-fixing allegations raging there was deep distrust between the sides.

"Speak to anybody on the field, I'm pretty laid back," he said. "It was a one-off thing, it had been a long night, we'd all been up till three in the morning and hadn't had a real good sleep and it was one of those things that happen. I regret it and I'm disappointed with the way it happened. It was a difficult summer."

Though their characters are wholly different, he seems destined, like his countryman Pietersen, to be a cricketer who makes things happen and to whom things happen. It has been a seminal year in his life. He is the object of close scrutiny.

"Because of the first game and the way it went I think people's expectations and maybe mine were of constantly doing well," he said. "It was an interesting year and I learnt a lot with the hype of the first game and then going through a few learning curves about what it is like playing Test cricket."

He has found a unique way of irritating observers and opponents by the way he prepares at the crease. It is bound to get up Australian pipes when they are not fretting about his roots. Trott scratches his mark, wanders around, scratches again like a dog trying unearth a precious bone. He pretends not to care.

"I go about business in my own way, prepare in a way that has been successful in the past and hopefully will be this tour as well," he said. "If people have got a problem they can speak to the umpire and the umpire will have a word with me. It sticks out like a sore thumb, but it's not such a big deal. I never got stick for it until I came into international cricket with all the media scrutiny."

But just in case anybody should think he is always deadly earnest he can leave 'em laughing. It has sometimes been said that he is related to the former Test cricketer, who played for both Australia and England in the late 19th century.

"People keep telling me I'm related to the Australian Trotts. All I know about is that one day he hit the ball over the pavilion at Lord's and years later shot himself. I'm not sure which part of him I'm related to."