When Jonathan Trott comes to the crease for England he shows little inclination to bat. Playing for his adopted country might be what he desires above all – famously he has espoused the merits of Birmingham above Cape Town, his city of birth – but he is obviously in no hurry to do so.
Time and motion officers, or whatever they are called these days, would suggest several methods for Trott to perform with slightly more alacrity. It can be said that, much more than the runs he has so far made for England in his three Test matches, Trott is getting up the pipes of the opposition because of the interminable period it takes him to settle to face a ball. His own colleagues are well aware of it.
AB de Villiers, the South Africa middle-order batsman who is the exact opposite of Trott (right) in that he cannot wait to receive the next ball, said after play yesterday: "I think it may be getting him into trouble if keeps on doing it. But Graeme Smith is making both him and the umpires aware of it. It's something he's dealing with."
So far, however, nobody is dealing with it with any success. It starts the moment he walks down the pavilion steps. There is not exactly urgency or purpose, though this might be because he has stocky, little legs on a sturdy frame.
When he arrives at the crease, the spectators are then treated to a ritual – and if the boos he received yesterday were anything to go by, the Durban crowd was none too appreciative.
Trott takes two guards, walks down the pitch, does a touch of gardening, scratches around the crease as if he is attempting to dig up something he left there earlier – not entirely out of the question perhaps, since he played on most of the South African pitches in his earlier incarnation as one of the country's rising young stars – and then takes a look at the field.
Then, and only then, does he prepare to take his stance. Unless something else occurs to him, as it often does. So reluctant does he appear to get on with the matter in hand that it would be no surprise to see him ask the umpire if he could borrow a mobile phone so he could ring Mrs Trott to ask if everything was OK with her.
This palaver, for it is not merely the work of a man seeking to gain concentration but of one pushing the boundaries of reasonableness, is displeasing. Trott has been an instant hit in the England shirt with a century in his maiden Test against Australia and a match-saving 69 in the first Test of this series against South Africa.
It is covered in the laws of the game, law 42, section 10 to be precise on batsmen wasting time. "In normal circumstance," it says, "the striker should always be ready to take strike when the bowler is ready to start his run-up." Trott sometimes is, sometimes only just, and sometimes he is not. The procedure then is that the batsman can be warned – as Trott has been twice on this tour. A further transgression can lead to a five-run penalty.
Trott's colleague, Graeme Swann, said the preparations were not overlong. But he also conceded that the antics were well-known in county cricket. "I have been playing against him for years and he's always done it. I have stood at slip for years and called him all the names under the sun."
What with review systems, bad light at Kingsmead and Trott's reluctance to face a ball, it is doubtful if there will be a full day's Test cricket again.Reuse content