In the parlour game to choose England's best one-day team of the moment, the one that might actually win the World Cup, it is fashionable to ignore Jonathan Trott. Too limited, too selfish, too hesitant, too slow and, they might as well say, too bald.
There is something about Trott as a limited-overs batsman that does not seem to add up. Except, that is, the most important component in a batsman's armoury, his runs. They amount to something substantial and in a career which so far spans 15 innings he has made six fifties and two hundreds, of which the second came yesterday.
It was, as always with Trott, assiduously crafted, never elegant, invariably ordered, and it provided the platform on which England built their first victory of the one-day series against Australia on Australia Day. With the score at 3-1 and three to play, the tourists, who had seemed on the verge of falling apart at the seams, effected some emergency stitching and have at least prolonged the Commonwealth Bank Series until the match in Brisbane on Sunday.
The victory was as efficient as the three consecutive losses preceding it had been lackadaisical. It undoubtedly helped the cause that the England captain, Andrew Strauss, won his fourth successive toss because any score above 250 in Adelaide has usually (on 20 of 24 occasions) been too much for the chasing side. The tricky part, in view of England's batting hitherto in the series, was getting to that total and beyond.
That they managed to reach 299 for 8, albeit not quite seamlessly, also justified an oddly balanced team selection. England picked seven batsmen with the out-of-form Paul Collingwood, once a scion of the blue riband one-day positions at four, five and six, at No7. It meant that they had only four specialist bowlers, a category which included Mike Yardy, with Collingwood and Trott as the fifth and sixth fillers-in.
If it looked high-risk, by the time England had won by 21 runs it could be appreciated as a tactical masterstroke. England read the pitch, Australia did not, although it is always more straightforward when you have batted first and made a healthy total. England's part-time bowlers contributed three wickets in their combined 20 overs and Trott, for whom everything went right, took 2 for 31, his first wickets in international cricket.
"It was a far better performance than in the first three games and any time anyone gets a hundred you're in the game and most times you win, and that was a very good hundred," said Strauss. "Matt Prior gave us real impetus at the top and showed what he can do. There were too many soft dismissals, but it was always going to be a very competitive total."
Trott's second-wicket partnership of 113 with Prior was the base that England needed. They were also the runs that Prior required after two three-ball ducks and, although he was dismissed softly for 67 from 58 balls when a maiden one-day hundred was there for the taking, he will have derived much succour from the fact that his selfless attacking was rewarded. The trouble with selflessness is that it does not always work in the team's favour.
The route to their total was littered with pratfalls. There was a stumble when three top-order wickets went for 22 runs in mid-innings and too many dismissals were not earned so much as offered on a silver platter. Neither Ian Bell nor Kevin Pietersen are playing as might have been expected, Eoin Morgan once more played an aberrant shot. For England to have a realistic chance of winning the World Cup, let alone winning the next three matches to prevail in this series, that cannot continue.
The goodish news was that Collingwood made 27 from 27 balls and if it hardly marked a return to form the trademark bottom-handed blast off Brett Lee for six suggested it is not beyond him.
By now Trott, whose one-day batting average is currently 54, has presumably made the No 3 place in the World Cup his own. This was an ideal position for him, coming in early and being allowed to dictate his own terms, especially with Prior blazing away at the other end.
There was only one blot on the innings. When he was 30 in the 15th over, the ball rolled dangerously back towards Trott's stumps. He turned to prevent it hitting them and meanwhile Prior and the bowler Brett Lee charged together down the pitch, Prior for a quick single, Lee to prevent it.
Trott's mind was still on the ball but when he turned round, satisfied it was safe, he saw Lee directly in front of him and nudged him out of the way to make his ground. Lee picked up the ball but his wild throw enabled Trott to reach safety. No real harm was done but there was a mild hint that the field might have been obstructed, a question that was posed to the umpires by Australia's captain, Michael Clarke.
In his innings of 89 in the previous match, Trott had veered off course to prevent the ball reaching the stumps and he went for a run. He played the innocent quite convincingly last night but he had better let not too much evidence pile up because reputations in cricket are built quickly.
"I turned around figuring I was trying to hit the ball," he said. "But I thought if I hit it I might hit it on to the stumps so I left it. And then I turned round I heard Matt and I turned right into Brett Lee. I didn't see him coming, he came like a freight train."
Australia were never in the hunt after Shane Watson's typically assertive 64. England bowled straight and compactly, used wisely by Strauss, with Jimmy Anderson on his return showing no sign of rustiness. The batting still needs attention but the man most in danger of being dropped at the start of this series is now undroppable.
Fourth one-day international, Adelaide Oval: England beat Australia by 21 runs; England won toss
*A J Strauss c Haddin b Lee 8/0/1/10/12
†M J Prior c Doherty b Smith 67/1/8/58/98
I J L Trott b Hussey 102/0/6/126/151
K P Pietersen c Marsh b Smith 12/0/1/13/11
I R Bell c Haddin b Smith 0/0/0/2/0
E J G Morgan c Lee b Hussey 24/0/1/31/57
P D Collingwood c White b Hussey 27/1/2/27/37
M H Yardy not out 39/0/6/27/41
A Shahzad c Watson b Hussey 4/0/0/5/5
C T Tremlett not out 0/0/0/1/0
Extras (lb4 w12) 16
Total (for 8, 50 overs) 299
Fall 1-23, 2-136, 3-158, 4-158, 5-224, 6-227, 7-283, 8-294.
Did not bat J M Anderson.
Bowling B Lee 8-0-68-1, D E Bollinger 9-0-55-0, S R Watson 5-0-29-0, J W Hastings 7-0-45-0, X J Doherty 10-0-44-0, S P D Smith 7-0-33-3, D J Hussey 4-0-21-4.
S R Watson c Prior b Shahzad 64/1/5/72/103
†B J Haddin c Strauss b Tremlett 20/0/4/16/24
S E Marsh c & b Anderson 1/0/0/6/4
*M J Clarke b Collingwood 15/0/1/27/45
C L White c Yardy b Trott 44/0/2/64/89
D J Hussey c Bell b Trott 28/0/1/34/46
S P D Smith not out 46/0/4/47/68
J W Hastings c Strauss b Anderson 1/0/0/3/4
B Lee not out 39/0/4/32/45
Extras (b4 lb8 w7 nb1) 20
Total (for 7, 50 overs) 278
Fall 1-32, 2-33, 3-87, 4-116, 5-176, 6-199, 7-201.
Did not bat X J Doherty, D E Bollinger.
Bowling J M Anderson 10-1-57-2, A Shahzad 10-0-58-1, C T Tremlett 10-0-62-1, P D Collingwood 7-0-22-1, M H Yardy 6-0-36-0, I J L Trott 7-0-31-2.
Umpires M Erasmus (SA) and S D Fry.
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