Trott plays his part as KP's straight man but where's the love?

Dogged batsman is not fully appreciated, even by his home fans
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Kevin Pietersen apologised readily enough for his part in the catch that never was but saw no reason to feel sorry about enjoying the rub of the green throughout a badly needed knock of 80.

Having backed away from the crease just as Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Asif moved into his delivery stride, Pietersen confused the issue by tamely hitting the ball to Salman Butt at mid-off. Not surprisingly, the visitors queried whether the dead ball signalled by umpire Marais Erasmus still stood. It did, according to the official, and Pietersen batted on.

"It was instinct really," said England's No 4. "I probably should not have hit it and I apologise if I caused any issues. Jonathan Trott [Pietersen's partner in a crucial third-wicket stand of 133] walked in from an angle which he hadn't been doing before and I thought he had not seen the bowler for some reason, so I pulled away. But the umpire called dead ball before I hit it and before the ball was bowled."

Pietersen was dropped three times and had several other close shaves before finally prodding a return catch to spinner Saeed Ajmal. His sequence without a Test century now spreads across 23 innings but he seemed content enough – if more subdued than the KP of old – when he spoke last night.

"It wasn't the most fluent of knocks but given the situation of the game it was one I was pretty pleased with," he said. "I obviously rode my luck, but on that wicket you had to and now we are in a pretty good position to do something really good on the third day."

Trott played almost as big a part as Pietersen in establishing that position of strength by making 55. But it was fitting that he should be mentioned in the dead-ball incident because here is a man who seems unable to do too much right even when he is doing nothing wrong.

Trott could not have done a great deal more, in a short space of time, to endear himself to the supporters. Yet he is struggling to win over the masses, and yesterday was a classic example as the applause that accompanied his slow and sorrowful trudge back to the pavilion could best be described as polite.

Not everyone can be a crowd-pleaser, of course, and it is inevitable that flamboyant characters will generate more excitement than nose-to-the-grindstone operators. But it does seem unfair, and slightly curious, that while Trott received only quiet acknowledgement for his 55, Pietersen was given a standing ovation for his error-strewn knock of 80.

Both batsmen were born in South Africa, both helped England to win the Ashes and both could be key to the chances of retaining the urn this winter. Yet while Pietersen divides opinion straight down the middle – you either love or hate his style and personality, and no one sits on the fence – many seem able to take or leave Trott.

Most, if not all, of us were happy to take him to our hearts a year ago when he capped an unforgettable Test debut at The Oval by scoring the second-innings century that put England on the road to their decisive victory over Australia. Though not nearly as important, the 29-year-old contributed a double century against Bangladesh earlier this summer.

Going into this series, however, the feeling was that Trott needed at least one more big score to have any real hope of retaining his place this winter. It is widely assumed that another Warwickshire batsman, Ian Bell, will return to the team once his broken foot has healed, and there was a groundswell of opinion in favour of new recruit Eoin Morgan even before the Irishman's terrific century at Trent Bridge a week or so ago.

Well, Trott is still looking for something substantial after failing to convert his half-century into three figures. But another possibility has presented itself with England's current No 3 emerging as a candidate to move one place up the order if Alastair Cook's troubles continue at The Oval and Lord's.