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Trott gallops his way into England hearts

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Anna Thompson | 19:59 UK time, Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Oval - I know it is a sweeping generalisation but from my experience South Africans are not known for being shy and retiring types.

Which is why I was pretty confident Cape Town-born Jonathan Trott would not look like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights when he stepped out at The Oval for his England Test match debut. And so it proved.

He has made a hugely impressive debut by scoring a maiden Test century - becoming the 18th England player to do so and only the third at The Oval behind Frank Hayes and WG Grace.

And we must not forget his great catch in the first innings when he snaffled Australia dangerman Michael Clarke at short extra cover to augment England's chances of regaining the Ashes urn....

It seems foolish now to wind back a week to when the media was full of speculation that Mark Ramprakash, Rob Key and even the retired Marcus Trescothick could come back for the do-or-die fifth Ashes Test against the Aussies, with Ravi Bopara looking like a broken man after scoring just 105 runs in seven innings at an average of 15.trott595.jpg

But the England selectors should be praised for sticking to their guns by employing their next-man-in policy - and that happened to be Trott.

After being named in the Headingley squad but subsequently not used, they finally gave Trott the nod for the all-important Oval Test - and he wasn't going to let the big occasion to him. Instead he grabbed his chance with both hands.

His half-brother Kenny Jackson, who played for Boland and Western Province, said of Trott's call-up: "It's not especially surprising that this has happened. It wasn't a lucky selection; he pretty much kicked the door down.

"He has been in and out of the England squad enough times now not to have rookie jitters. I don't think the situation will overwhelm him. He's in the form of his life and he is certainly good enough. He can walk on water at the moment."

Blimey, it's as though Kenny had been looking into a crystal ball!

The 28-year-old is a British passport holder and his grandparents British (his grandad still lives in Chislehurst in Kent).

After playing for his native South Africa at under-15, 17 and 19 levels he committed himself to the England cause, signing for Warwickshire in 2003, and became England-qualified in 2006.

He was first on England's radar in 2007 when he was picked for a couple of Twenty20 internationals against West Indies but these were spectacularly unsuccessful. He made just 11 runs in two innings and was sent back to county cricket.

But he did not give up hope and credits a chat with former England spinner Ashley Giles, who had just been named Warwickshire director of cricket, for helping plot his international future.

Trott kept his career bubbling on a couple of A tours with the Lions when Andy Flower, now England coach, was the assistant, and it has certainly helped his cause that Giles, now one of England's selectors, was a big fan.

They certainly could not miss his county exploits this season. In 11 matches he has amassed 1013 runs and scored four centuries at an average of 92.09. So he was ripe for inclusion (it all seems so simple in hindsight!)

In the first innings in south London he was looking assured on 41 when a superb run-out by Simon Katich ended his time at the crease.

In his second innings he was determined to grind it out and was man enough to come out to bat with England wobbling on 39-3 close to the end of the second day when they could have instead sent out their nightwatchman.

And with a mixture of superb composure under pressure (and a bit of luck on 97 when he almost edged onto his stumps) he made his ton off 182 balls, including nine fours, to rapturous applause.

At the news conference after the day's play had ended, Trott, proudly wearing his England shirt bearing the number 645 on it, was confident but not arrogant as he spoke of the satisfying feeling of scoring a hundred.trottton595.jpg

He did seem genuinely shocked to hear his mum had been shown on television in tears when he reached the milestone.

"I'm having dinner tonight with them. I hope they can keep it together," he joked.

And when another journalist asked if it was true he was related to former England and Australia Test player Albert Trott (from the late 1800s) he replied: "My grandad reckons so but you'll have to ask him. He's in Chislehurst."

There are of course going to be comparisons with another well-known South African playing for England - a certain Kevin Pietersen - but Trott straight batted the question saying: "I don't want to emulate anyone."

If anything he seems to be a more thinking man's KP - if he doesn't mind me saying so.

He reckoned he had "stayed clear of anything that could unsettle me" ahead of the Test so he had not read the comments by Australia captain Ricky Ponting questioning his inclusion in such an important match as "an act of desperation".

When a reporter piped up that South Africa coach Mickey Arthur had said Trott's move to England had been good because he would not have got into the current South Africa team, Trott retorted: "He was right, it was a good move."

Trott seems so at ease and comfortable it is hard to believe it's his first Test but, judging by his performance and demeanour, he could be heading for a long stint in the squad.

The decision for the selectors ahead of the Test series to South Africa this winter will be who does he replace? Will Bopara be given another chance or is Paul Collingwood's place in jeopardy after a poor Ashes series? Those arguments are for another day.

There certainly isn't any argument that Trott has galloped his way into England fans' hearts.

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