HAILING JONATHAN TROTT: THE FORGOTTEN MATCHWINNER
S. SOORAJ | 9th July 2021
In a short-lived career that spanned from 2007 to 2015, Jonathan Trott had shone for a majority of that period, being an instrumental part of a dominant Test side from 2009 to 2013. This was the time when England had established themselves as an invincible force and made light work of every top side, from Australia to India.
The batting line-up was stacked to the core. The side featured modern-day great in Sir Alastair Cook and Sir Andrew Strauss to open the innings as well proven match-winners in the form of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell at No.4 and No.5.
However, Trott was the glue at No.3 that stitched the pursuit of greatness. Oozing consistency while being an impeccable player of pace and spin and being a sight for sore eyes with a bat in his hand, ‘Trotters’ gave you memories to cherish for a lifetime if watching Test cricket on a Sunday morning is your idea of a dream day.
But he isn’t spoken enough, despite his legendary status and it’s time to shine a light on the understated excellence of Jonathan Trott.
Start as you mean to go on
The series was level 1-1. England had to win the 5th and final test to seal the urn. After a solid start in the 1st innings that saw them take a 170-run lead, things were well under control for the English. But you couldn’t say the same about the 2nd.
Marcus North and Mitchell Johnson were running riot as they took 3 wickets in 5 overs. That is when Jonathan Trott made his entry. This was his Test debut for England and having been run-out for a well-made 41 in the 1st innings, the wicketkeeper batsman wanted to build on an encouraging start.
Things, however weren’t encouraging for England with 39/3 on the scoreboard when Trott went out in the middle to join his captain, Andrew Strauss. That didn’t send them into panic mode. Quite the opposite actually as a brilliant partnership of 118 runs for the 4th wicket until Strauss threw his wicket to North.
But Trott ensured the innings didn’t go south and looked as confident as ever. To come in the midst of such a sticky situation in such a high-octane clash and score a match-winning century on debut was remarkable. But he did it with ease.
The Cape Town-born batsman went on to score a scintillating 119, steering England to a mammoth total of 545. A dream debut indeed from a lad who was a matchwinner from day one.
Fast forward a year later and Trott was an integral part of the English line-up in the Ashes series on away soil. It only took him a year to show the world what he was made of. He proved his stripes as a reliable No.3 for England and the only way was up for Trotters.
Trott stepped up to the plate yet again in the 2010-11 Ashes, spearheading an English triumph towards their first Ashes win on Australian soil since 1986-87. And him being a spearhead isn’t blowing smoke, considering Trott was the 2nd highest run-scorer in this series with 2 centuries and a half-century in 7 innings.
With a well-fought 135 not out to earn a draw in the first test, Trott arrived in Australia in style. And he wasn’t planning to stop his onslaught anytime soon with a 78 in the next game, helping England earn their first victory in the series.
As England was leading 2-1 and retaining the Ashes wasn’t a pipe dream like it seemed to some before a ball was bowled, Jonathan sealed the deal with a stunning 168 in the first innings of the 4th test, leading the English towards a comprehensive title defence.
Pressure makes diamonds and Trott is one of them
What stood out about Trott was his rare ability to suss out the toughest tracks and pick apart at even the most world-class bowling attacks with ease.
One such knock was his unforgettable 184 in the mecca of cricket, Lord’s, up against a petrifying Pakistan pace bowling attack. This young and prolific bowling attack consisted of a threatening trio of Mohammed Amir, Mohammed Asif and Wahab Riaz, who were aided by pace-friendly English pitches to make matters worse.
Amir and Asif were two exceptional pace bowlers at the time who made even top-drawer batsmen tremble with their incredible pace and swing.
Even the seasoned likes of Cook, Strauss, and Bell looked novices, going toe-to-toe with them. In a series where England were leading 2-1, things seemed to get out of hand in the 4th Test as the Pakistani bowlers were simply feasting on the Lord’s pitch.
The English were in tatters, with the scoreboard stuttering at 102-7 when Stuart Broad walked into the pitch. Now it was up to him and Trott to seal the series for England and against all odds, they did just that.
Unsurprisingly, Trott showed tremendous character as he built an astonishing 332-run partnership for the 8th wicket alongside Broad fronting England’s batting reach a formidable total of 446.
Fighting tooth and nail to score an impeccable 184 at Lord’s against a sublime Pakistani bowling attack in the fourth and final test was more than enough for England to triumph by an innings. This will easily go down as the best innings of Trott’s illustrious career.
Making even the meanest of fast bowlers look meek wasn’t the only thing he excelled at. The England international could also do it on a sunny day on a spin-friendly Indian pitch.
You can’t say the same for the English who tasted defeat in a crucial series against India earlier this year. After all, vanquishing a 3-1 series defeat doesn’t make for pretty reading. And the Indian spinners were in demolition mode through a sub-standard English batting line-up, winning the series comfortably.
Simply put, the English batting roster was short on quality and proper experience. Batters like Zack Crawley, Ollie Pope, Rory Burns and Daniel Lawrence reeked of inexperience and inconsistency. To add to that, their inability to play spin was the crux behind why England couldn’t crack through the Indian bowling attack.
However, that certainly wasn’t the case when Jonathan Trott and Co. toured India in 2013. England clinched the series 2-1, registering their first test series win in India since 1986-87, courtesy of yet another Trott special
While India was trying to force a win in the four-match series that was hanging towards England’s side of things, Trott saved the test on day five of the final test as he held the fort for a famous England draw.
Being the incredible player of spin he is, the former Warwickshire man managed to score a brilliant knock of 143 in that turning pitch against four Indian spinners in the line-up. He batted the day out along with his long-time mate Ian Bell and Trott’s temperament to keep calm and seal the deal is something that today’s English cricketers can take notes from.
There wasn’t a favourite opponent for Jonathan Trott, who he’d face, feast on and call it a day. He strutted his stuff against every opposition in the world. Adding to some of his top-notch performances that have already been highlighted, the Test legend also had two double hundreds in the longest format of the game, one each against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Yes, every team had to sit through the Jonathan Trott show.
An underrated ODI batsman
While his limited-overs game wasn’t all about the big hits and unbelievable strike rates, Trott still averaged a sizeable 53 in his 8-year old ODI career. Not all that bad for a No.3 batsman to say the least.
And there’s a reason why he was always a core part of the English ODI side at the time and came up big in major tournaments.
Despite being England’s top scorer in the 2011 World Cup, the critics slammed Trott for his poor strike rate. However, with the players around him crumbling like a deck of cards, all he could do was be the anchor and that is exactly what he did. All said and done, he was England’s best player at cricket’s biggest stage, despite the slander on his name.
And he didn’t shy away after that. He showed up again in a major tournament for England in the 2013 Champions Trophy. Trott once again ended up England’s top scorer in the tournament, with his sensational knock of 86* against South Africa in the semi-finals standing out.
However, not even Jonathan Trott’s re- hot form could stop Dhoni’s men-in-blue in the final from getting over the line.
While he played a few ODI games in the aftermath of the competition, Trott also ended up playing his last ODI for England in September of the same year.
He announced his retirement in 2015, hanging up his boots after what was a short yet splendid career. Even though he had a short-lived career, he had proven himself to be an outstanding player during his time.
One of England’s greatest No.3 batsmen, a man you could bet your life on, regardless of the situation, Jonathan Trott was your man.