Second Test: Jonathan Trott backs Alastair Cook's cautious approach despite threat of rain

 

Headingley

Jonathan Trott is known for his defensive expertise at the crease and he played with a similarly straight bat when questioned about England's cautious tactics here.

With rain forecast in Leeds, England could be denied a 2-0 series victory over New Zealand because of their conservative approach on day four. On Sunday Alastair Cook chose against asking New Zealand to follow on and he allowed his side to bat into the afternoon session, until they set their opponents a victory target of 468.

When bad light stopped play shortly after 6.30pm, the tourists were 158 for 6, with all their top six batsmen dismissed.

New Zealand's batting has had all the solidity of a stale digestive biscuit in this series and Cook, who scored his 25th Test hundred, could surely have declared earlier. But Trott, who made 76, insisted England had got it right.

"I think we had it spot on," he said. "We set out to get the total we wanted in the time we wanted, which we achieved.

"We then took six New Zealand wickets, so it was a good day of Test cricket and we need only four wickets to win the series 2-0. You can't pay too much attention to the weather forecasts. When you're 1-0 up in the series, you can afford to let the game take its course and not chase it. You play how you normally would and you don't let the weather dictate.

"People talk about enforcing the follow-on but you don't want to bat last on a dry pitch, and the aim is to stay on top when you're on top. The idea was to make it difficult for them batting last.

"It's a great opportunity to win a Test match, we've worked really hard for it and it would be brilliant to get a 2-0 victory."

Nick Compton, England's troubled opening batsman, spent time off the field because of what team officials said was a chest muscle injury, sustained while throwing. He was out for just seven on Sunday and had to watch while Cook and Trott ground New Zealand into the dirt.

If the rain thwarts Cook today, he will turn his thoughts to 50-over cricket. England have three one-day internationals against New Zealand before embarking on their Champions Trophy campaign.

Should England win that competition, which takes place on home soil next month, it would be their first ICC global title in this form of the game. Although the Champions Trophy lacks the prestige of the World Cup, it is leaner and meaner.

Eight strong teams are split into two groups, meaning that the winner will play only five matches. There is little room for error and it is vital to begin the Champions Trophy with players in form, and England have reasons for optimism.

Leave aside for a moment Cook's odd decision to continue batting, and concentrate on the individual performances of certain England players. The New Zealand attack were demoralised and there was little pressure on the batsmen, but Joe Root's work as he tried to accelerate suggested he could shine in the Champions Trophy.

Root has already shown his aptitude in the one-day game, scoring two half-centuries, including an unbeaten 79 to win the match at Napier, in the series in New Zealand in February.

Although the sample size is small, Root's ability to prosper in all forms is apparent – and he offered more evidence with a delightful innings of 28 from just 22 deliveries.

Cook will also have been encouraged by the performances of Graeme Swann and Steven Finn, two pillars of the 50-over side. Swann has eight wickets – the best match figures for a spinner here since 1972 – in only his second Test since recovering from an elbow injury, while Finn has bowled with consistent menace.

The weather might frustrate them today, but if key men can maintain this level in the Champions Trophy, happier times surely lie ahead.

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