Quick single: Jonathan Trott walking out by himself
Jonathan Trott’s short and uncomfortable innings on the final day of the 2nd Test led to a discussion on Test Match Special about the difference between opening and batting in the middle order. Michael Vaughan took the declarative approach initially: “It’s just different”. But pressed by Ed Smith, Vaughan revealed how he didn’t like having to wait to bat when first playing for England as a middle order batsman, with a background for Yorkshire as an opener (my recollection is that he didn’t have to wait long to bat on his debut against South Africa). Then, thinking of Trott’s move in the other direction, Vaughan suggested that he might not like sharing the walk out to the middle, as an opener does, as distinct from the lone walk of any other batsman.
It all sounded pretty trite.
Ed Smith ventured an explanation based on technique. He likes, he said, to see openers keeping their heads still when on strike. Trott at the start of his innings in this series had not just engaged a trigger move but his head was in motion as the ball was delivered, Smith observed.
Smith sounded insightful.
I have previous in this area. I wrote a piece over two years ago, What is an opening batsman? I looked at the conventional definition (orthodox technique, etc) and the performance of openers in recent years. There appeared to be no correlation between effectiveness and a match to the conventional definition. I concluded that four things made a batsman suitable for opening in Test matches:
- Experience of the role
- Complement to the opening partner (the weakest factor)
- Not the best batsman in the team
- Wants the job.
Smith was making a useful technical observation, but one no less relevant to a middle order batsman than to an opener. Vaughan, struggling to articulate a reason and sounding trite, was I believe closer to the truth and an understanding of Trott’s lack of success specifically in the role as opener: he doesn’t have experience opening and would probably prefer to bat somewhere else.
I hated the wait. I liked the idea of the bowler needing to find his rhythm… More opportunity to leave. More chance to dictate pace of game. Less chance of facing spinners first up. Less daunting to start together while everyone is setting up rather than being watched all the way out.
I thought 3 was ideal: a chance to size up the opposition’s best bowlers. If you go in early, you’re entitled to build carefully; if the openers put on a stand, you’ll have a well-set partner whom you can feed the strike. And, Ged, as you mention about opening, unlikely to face spinners first up.