Trott not spot
Salman Butt, Mohammed Amir and Mohammed Asif were found guilty this week on the counts of conspiracy to accept payments for identifying in advance when three no balls would be bowled in the Test match at Lord’s on 26 and 27 August last year and conspiracy to do the same acts in order to enable others to cheat at gambling. Those dates and that match are seared with the notions of cheating, fixing, conspiracy and crime.
I left Lord’s in the late afternoon of 27 August 2010 exhilarated. My departure before the close of play was for one of the few things that could ever draw me from watching a live match at Lord’s: my college old boys’ annual cricket tour. Fortunes had swung dramatically on a thrilling day, with three cricketers to the fore. But the performance of one player had topped the lot. Jonathon Trott played an innings of tactical brilliance and technical excellence. It met the force of the Pakistani opening bowlers head on, slowed and then halted their momentum, before swinging it back and trampling over their push for ascendancy, victory and a series draw.
At the start of the day, Trott had barely faced a ball by the time three partners had been dismissed. Amir was swinging the ball at pace away from and into the batsmen. He took a fourth wicket of the session, without conceding a run, leaving England five down without 50 on the board.
Trott had a plan. He batted well out of his crease to meet the ball before Amir’s late swing could bring about too much deviation. He rode the moving ball, refusing to prod at or follow it. He stood well down the wicket, towards a bowler reaching 90mph, defying the instinct to move back and give himself time. I don’t remember Trott being hit, or even troubled, by the occasional short ball that Amir could deliver.
As the conditions eased, he collected runs around the wicket, driving repeatedly through his supposedly weaker off-side. Amir took his fifth and sixth wickets of the day and Broad joined Trott. There was still a lot of bailing out to be done, but their partnership grew and grew taking England to a respectable total, then a strong one and always further from the batting travails of the start of the day. I was gone by the time the pair were lording it over the Pakistani bowlers. They were unbeaten, both with hundreds, over night. I had seen (part of) a very special day’s cricket and was so glad of the reunion that evening with cricket friends to turn it over and savour its significance.
At some point the next morning, talk of spot-fixing superseded that of Trott and Broad. It hasn’t surrendered its primacy ever since. For a short while, I questioned whether the whole England fightback was an artifice. But I had seen Trott face up to Amir and survive against his very best and then thrive as the conditions became less friendly to the bowlers.
Trott’s courage, adaptability and skill displayed at Lord’s on 27 August 2010 have not received the acclaim deserved. It was overshadowed – even questioned – by the spot-fixing allegations. Now this week’s court activity has hardened those allegations into proven criminal endeavour, it’s time to recognise Trott’s awesome innings.