Warwickshire 146 for 4 (Trott 62*, Chopra 57) trail Middlesex 452 (Robson 231, Simpson 52, Patel 4-80) by 306 runs
Jonathan Trott held firm while batting in an old-style helmet © Getty Images
Jonathan Trott has become the latest batsman to demonstrate the virtues of vision over armour as he made his first half-century since July in Championship cricket.
Trott, who endured a tough return to domestic cricket after announcing his international retirement in May 2015, resisted an impressive Middlesex attack with some assurance to keep Warwickshire’s head above water on day two of this match. And, despite facing Steven Finn charging in from the Pavilion End, he did so in an old-style batting helmet that no longer complies with British Safety Standards or ECB stipulations.
Trott, reasoning that the increased mobility and vision offered by the lighter helmets outweighed any benefits of greater physical protection, has a new-style helmet with him at Lord’s and is prepared to change into it if required by the umpires. At present, none of the officials – one of whom is the highly respected international umpire Richard Kettleborough – has asked him to do so.
Trott joins Alastair Cook, the England captain, as unlikely rebels against the ECB’s new safety regulations. Both are, at heart, conformists and neither would naturally look to flout an ECB ruling.
Indeed, they are among the most successful batsmen in the England game at present who value little more than the business of run-scoring. The ECB may do well to listen to such experience. They are also close friends of Andrew Strauss, the director of the England side, and may carry some influence.
Nick Compton, another vastly experienced top-order batsman, had also expressed some reservations about the new regulations but has reluctantly taken to the new-style helmets to avoid any controversy.
Trott’s choice of helmet is especially intriguing bearing in mind this opposition and his own history. He gained – largely unfairly – a reputation as a batsman who struggled against the short ball during the last four Tests of his international career. Battling with anxiety issues, he was certainly exposed by the pace and hostility of Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane in 2013.
But here, against one of the fastest bowlers in England on a pitch of increasingly uneven bounce, he opted for the old-style helmet in the belief that – all things considered – it offered better all-round protection.
He played Finn better than anyone. Despite the inevitable barrage of short balls – at one stage Finn bowled to him with a short-leg, leg slip, fine leg and deep square leg – he was never troubled and produced a couple of sumptuous drives down the ground and a series of once-familiar clips to midwicket. For a while, this could have been the Trott who went within an ace of scoring two Test double-hundreds on this great old ground in 2010.
This was an impressive return from Finn, too. Playing his first game since a side strain ended his South Africa tour and a calf strain ended his World T20 plans, it was not just that he bowled with decent pace and rhythm, it was that he continues to demonstrate new skills that render him a more complete bowler.
He revealed in pre-season that he had been working on a delivery that swung into the right-hander to complement his new found away swing. Here, with his first ball since the Johannesburg Test, he produced a beauty to dismiss Ian Westwood. The delivery, climbing sharply from just back of a length, also nipped away from the left-hander to take the shoulder of the bat and fly to fourth slip. Later he had the talented Sam Hain playing on as he attempted to chop a through point.
On the day when it became clear that Mark Wood was an injury doubt for the Sri Lanka Test series, it was an encouraging performance from an England perspective.
“We stand here every April and say this is a big season for me,” Finn said afterwards. “But I’m where I want to be. My pace was good, I swing it away with the new ball and yes, I do feel I’m learning some more skills.
“I’m the sort of bowler who likes bowling a lot of overs. If I wasn’t bowling in a game, I’d be bowling in the nets and I’d always rather bowl in a game. They have an excellent top order – Trotty batted very well – so we’re going to have to work hard to win this match”
Middlesex are in a strong position, though. As a result of starting the game on a slightly damp pitch, there are indentations on the surface that are causing uneven bounce. Both Ian Bell and Varun Chopra, who played some gorgeous cover drives, were defeated by deliveries that kept horribly low.
The decision not to use the heavy roller in this match means there is no chance that the indentations can be rolled out. Warwickshire still require 157 more runs to avoid the follow-on, though Middlesex may be reluctant to enforce it and risk batting last on such a surface. The loss of 19 overs to bad light provided Warwickshire with some respite.
Earlier Sam Robson extended his overnight score to a career best and record for Middlesex against Warwickshire. Bill Edrich, who made 225 at Edgbaston in 1947, was the previous record holder. The game has changed since those helmet-free days but the ECB may reflect that the balance between physical protection and manoeuvrability and vision has swung a little too far with recent regulations. When Trott and Cook talk about batting, it pays to listen.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo