Determined Trott stays calm under pressure as England move closer to memorable series win
14:03 GMT, 16 December 2012
Jonathan Trott stood defiantly up against the Indian attack, a pitch unfit for purpose and a barrage of verbal abuse to take England to within one good session of one of their best and most historic triumphs in modern memory.
What had been a cagey, turgid and mostly downright dull final Test burst into life with the series on a knife-edge in the final session of the fourth day when Trott put behind him a year full of frustrations to deliver just when it mattered most.
When Kevin Pietersen inexplicably shouldered arms to a straight ball from Ravindra Jadeja – just as Trott had done in the first innings – England, who had battled heroically for the best part of four days, looked to be letting their first series win in India for almost 28 years slip out of their grasp.
Building his runs: Jonathan Trott scored a half century as England look to build a lead
They were just 98 ahead with three wickets down and the man who could have attacked them to safety gone yet again to left-arm spin. But Ian Bell joined Trott and what followed was the most fluent, potentially decisive, batting of a Test England need only draw today to take the series.
Not to mention the most controversial. For when Trott walked a few paces outside his crease and smacked a ball that had dribbled out of Jadeja’s hand and bounced several times before trickling to a halt on the leg-side of the pitch for four he ignited another argument between these teams over the spirit of cricket.
Trott was perfectly within his rights to do what he did but, even though both Jadeja and MS Dhoni reacted with wry smiles, Ravichandran Ashwin later said that this was the spark for the tense and unpleasant scenes that were to follow.
Remember, it was Dhoni who called Bell back at Trent Bridge last year when he had been run out walking out of his crease at tea. And remember it was Trott who, in Ahmedabad, pleaded ignorance when he had clearly grassed a catch. India feel that their gesture in Trent Bridge has hardly been reciprocated since.
Trott will not care. His totally legal shot – which went down as four off a no-ball – showed the competitive desire of the man and he carried on displaying it when India were convinced, wrongly, they had him caught behind on 43.
This has again been a chastening match for the umpires and those of us who against all hope tried to cling on to a game not dominated by technology. Sorry, this series has proved the Decision Review System doubters like myself totally wrong. It has been punctuated by one awful umpiring error after another.
The latest howlers came from the man this year voted the best official on the ICC elite panel, Kumar Dharmasena. Firstly he gave out Alastair Cook, wrongly, for the second time in the Test and then said no when Trott should have been given lbw on just seven to Jadeja. How important that reprieve now looks.
Frustration: Ishant Sharma thought he had taken Jonathan Trott's wicket
Add Sunday’s other wrong decision of Rod Tucker who gave Nick Compton lbw to one he inside edged onto pad – the ball then ballooned to gully so Compton should have been given out anyway, only in a different way – and this series has seen a catalogue of errors from these umpires and the ones who officiated in the first two Tests, Aleem Dar and Tony Hill.
But Dharmasena’s decision to reprieve Trott when he attempted to cut Ishant Sharma was not among them. This was the right call but that did not stop the Indian players losing their cool completely, with their agitator in chief Virat Kohli involving himself in an incident that had nothing to do with him.
There at the end: Ian Bell supported Trott at the end
They were picking on the wrong man in Trott. He is one who thrives on such things rather than being cowed by them. He appeared to blow a little kiss at Sharma – that didn’t exactly calm India down – and went on his merry way to an unbeaten 66 by the close with England on 161 for three, a priceless lead of 165.
There was one other flashpoint when Ashwin threatened to run Trott out backing up – he later said in essence that he would not have stooped to Trott’s level – but the combative Trott and his team lived to fight one last day in this absorbing and unpredictable series.
As long as England do not blow it with a cluster of quick wickets today they will surely achieve the draw they need. It would be a series triumph richly deserved. Even yesterday India, until they were stirred into a late reaction, were strangely passive, poor in the field and lacking any sort of dynamism.
Their fortunes were summed up by a quite bizarre first hour yesterday when they batted on but showed no ambition to try to win the match, scoring just 29 runs in 13 soporific overs before declaring with one wicket left four runs behind England’s 330. All they achieved was take time out of the match and made Cook’s task a little easier. It was not very Duncan Fletcher-like cricket at all.
A Test that has never progressed beyond first gear, at least until Trott and Bell took the run-rate up close to a giddy three an over, has done little to further the cause of the ultimate game in its most passionate country. Shame on the groundsman who produced this lifeless excuse of a pitch, whether by accident or design.
But the sheer importance of this Test and what is at stake has made it compelling viewing for the purists. And England just need one last, final push now for the most extraordinary of series wins.
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