Cricket: England v West Indies

View from the Nursery End: Lord's Day 2

Trott's tidiness and Pietersen's theatricality were a sublime contrast

View from the Nursery End: Lord's Day 2

One of Test cricket’s great charms is watching batsmen with contrasting styles. No pair of cricketers exemplify gulfs in temperament more than Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen.

England’s two South Africans have been pivotal to the rise to number one status and both have their advocates. Some England fans cannot stand Pietersen’s braggadaccio, but would they be content to watch a team of Trotts?

For most of day two, the cricket had a predictable quality, which at times made it soporific. The pitch offered neither bounce, nor lateral movement. And the West Indies did not know how to swing the ball. Andrew Strauss (121*) and Trott (58) eschewed risk.  

Strauss's patient hundred will merit the inevitable thousand clichés heading his way about how he has proved his critics wrong, cemented his position in the team, and so on.  But the truth was that it was almost inevitable as long as he did not self-destruct.

What was more surprising was Trott’s failure to reach three figures. The situation was perfect for one of his works of tidy accountancy - one of those innings where he raises his bat to acknowledge a hundred and most of the crowd can barely remember a stroke he has played in anger.

This anonymity is actually a tribute to his professionalism. There were some fine, even elegant, shots in this innings, such as when he clipped Sammy off his legs to the boundary, or cut him clinically for four. Later, carbon copies of these two signature strokes came off loose deliveries by Edwards. But there was no flourish and no desire to entertain. Curiously enough, the very qualities which make him a little dull at times, will be deeply reassuring when he comes into bat against South Africa.

Towards the end of his innings, Trott became bogged down, which is his Achilles heel. He made just 13 runs from his last 42 balls before succumbing to a faint tickle off Sammy.  

Then came Pietersen whose performance provided such sublime counterpoint to Trott. He burned like a meteor, then imploded inevitably against an attack he treated with aristocratic hauteur.

But in his cameo of 32 runs, Pietersen played the most memorable shots of the day. Each of his five boundaries ended with a flourish, which showed that he had one eye on the crowd’s reaction. Trott, as self-absorbed as Shivnarine Chanderpaul, is oblivious to crowds.

Some may decry Pietersen’s theatricality as show-ponying, but this viewpoint shows a lack of imagination. It takes great empathy to want to connect with such a large audience and imprint your personality on a day’s cricket.

Off his fifth ball, Pietersen hit a pull shot in front of square with a ferocity which set the crowd abuzz. A little later, a pull shot off Roach was unconventionally paddled to the fence from under his arm pit. Then came the best stroke of the lot, when Roach overpitched and was wristily flicked down the ground for four. The stroke was hit with the sort of back lift that golfers use to chip the ball, yet it thumped into the ropes.  

For a while, Pietersen was out of form, but his brilliant hundreds in Sri Lanka and the IPL have handed him back his mojo. One can hardly wait to see him take on the South Africans later this year.