Last week saw Jonathan Trott announce his return to the international cricket scene in his own inimitable style, grinding out an epic double century for England Lions against South Africa ‘A’.
Trott had previously not played for England at any level since being forced to leave the Ashes tour of Australia in November 2013 due to a stress-related illness.
Since his return to county cricket for Warwickshire, Trott has averaged almost 50 in the County Championship as well as an impressive 54.2 in the One-Day Cup, leading to his recall for the England Lions side.
With England’s struggle to find a suitable opening partner for Test captain Alistair Cook ongoing, many commentators have suggested Trott as a potential candidate for the role, though he faces strong competition from the likes of Sam Robson, Adam Lyth and Alex Lees.
Perhaps the main obstacle to Trott being given a chance to open the batting for England is the overall similarity between his batting style and that of potential opening partner Cook. Trott became known through his earlier England career for long, gritty innings that anchored many an England batting performance and selectors may feel this bears too much resemblance to Cook’s style of play.
Trott’s detractors could point to the success of Australia’s opening partnership, pairing the gritty style of Chris Rogers with David Warner’s more explosive batting, as an example of how the role of Test opener has changed in the modern game.
While there is no doubt Trott has the ability to anchor an innings, it is certainly questionable whether he has the capability to alter his game to really take the match away from teams with powerful hitting or rapid scoring in the style of openers like Warner or Pakistan’s Mohammad Hafeez.
Questions over Trott’s ability to successfully alter his game lend more credibility to the case for either of Yorkshire’s two openers, Lyth or Lees, to be given a shot at the top of the England Test batting order.
Unlike Trott, neither Lyth or Lees could be accused of lacking the skill or inclination to bat aggressively early in their innings; both batsmen have proven their ability to score quickly and take advantage of good batting conditions throughout the county season.
While Lees is perhaps more of a rough diamond, Lyth at the age of 26 is a batsman coming into the peak of his powers and would seem the ideal foil for Alistair Cook’s more stoic approach. Sam Robson is perhaps another opening option for England, although his inconsistent performances for both England and Middlesex may harm his chances of a recall.
While a potential opening berth for Trott is a definite possibility, a return to the England middle order has also been mooted.
This however seems distinctly unlikely, barring injury or abject loss of form, as England seem to have established a successful middle order.
Gary Ballance has surely earned his spot at number 3 with a series of brilliant innings; Ian Bell has proven his class a hundred times over batting at 4, Joe Root seemingly grows in stature with every passing game and Moeen Ali provides both stylish batting and an increasingly assured spin bowling option.
Trott may not see an immediate return to the England side but it would be incredibly surprising if the England selectors did not at least give him some consideration, especially given England’s hectic Test match schedule over the next year.
With such a packed calendar, England may turn to Trott as an experienced replacement for younger players dealing with fatigue, loss of form or injury.
If Trott is called upon to play such a role, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back scoring the kind of hundreds that made him such an integral part of the England side that rose to the summit of world Test cricket not so long ago.