Trott basks in century glow
Jonathan Trott reflected on the culmination of his life’s work so far, after joining elite company with a century on his Test debut in an Ashes series.
Trott spent more than five-and-a-half hours cementing England’s position as strong favourites to snatch the urn back from Australia by winning the decider at the Oval.
On the back of the South Africa-born 28-year-old’s 119 - and important if contrasting half-centuries from captain Andrew Strauss (75) and Graeme Swann (63) - England were in control of their own destiny by stumps on day three.
Australia still need only a draw to retain the Ashes but must bat for two more days to do so. To win the npower series outright and therefore remain top of the Test rankings, the tourists - 80 for none - need to smash the world record for a last-innings chase, in pursuit of 546.
Trott knows his own achievement will take on true significance only if England complete the job.
Even so, there was some satisfaction in his voice as he said: “It’s something you work towards your whole life - since the age of three, with my dad in the nets. Everyone’s played their part in getting me here.
“Every stage has been a stepping stone to this, and I’m just chuffed to be here. The selectors showed huge faith in me, and I’m pleased to be able to reward them.”
Trott is in no doubt he made the right decision in leaving his native country, where national coach Mickey Arthur is on record as saying he would not make the Test team. He bears no grudges over that assertion.
“It was a good move (to come to England),” Trott believes. “It’s nothing personal. He’s got his team; this is ours - and I’m happy as Larry to be in it.”
The Warwickshire batsman has become, after Graham Thorpe 16 years ago, only the second England player in more than a century to reach three figures against Australia on debut. Now, though, he badly wants to be part of a team who regain the Ashes.
“At the start of the game, a win was the most important thing - and it still is,” he said. “For me, to have a personal achievement is an added bonus.”
Trott was identified by Australia captain Ricky Ponting as someone who would be under immense pressure coming into this match - but he dealt with it admirably.
“I’m sure there were a few things said (by the Australians),” he conceded. “But that’s fine - and I didn’t really understand it anyway.
“I think the guys coming in and playing their natural game made it a lot easier for me. Australia didn’t make it easy for me, but I ground it out.”
Trott’s only seriously anxious moment came just three runs short of his century - when he came within a whisker of playing on off Ben Hilfenhaus.
“The ball went between my legs and hit my heel. It was bizarre,” he shrugged. As for the chances of Australia pulling off a remarkable chase, Trott sees tough times ahead.
“The new ball came on. But I think it will definitely get a lot harder when the ball gets softer, stopping in the wicket - and with spin at one end,” he predicts.
“Maybe we can get it to ’reverse’ a bit as well and put them under pressure. But until you’ve taken the 10th wicket in the second innings, it’s always unknown. It’s never a foregone conclusion.”
Marcus North took 4-98 with his part-time off-spin - and he will be one of the batsmen who must contribute if Australia are to make a fist of their huge task.
“History is against us,” he acknowledges. “But there is a lot of cricket to be played - and what you will see is 11 guys coming back to The Oval with a lot of character to show. We hope if we lay foundations it will give us a chance.”
North is hoping some of his team-mates can bat as well as Trott, on a pitch which has attracted much comment since Australia’s collapse yesterday.
He gave due credit to England’s hero, admitting: “He batted superbly and showed great composure under pressure. It is no hiding that it was a big Test match to make his debut. But he worked very hard at difficult times to play a good innings for England.”
Please note: there are London Underground weekend engineering works that may affect your journey to the Brit Oval on days 3/4 of the Test - for the latest information see the Tfl website