Jonathan Trott and Gary Ballance, two players who have broken through the County Championship and into the England first team, have both had time in the spotlight as a number three batsmen and have both shown what they bring to the table, but the main question imposed on the minds of England fans around the country is: who should Peter Moore back as his number three in the test and one day arena?
Back in 2009, Trott burst onto the scene after high class performances in the County Championship, making his debut in the fifth and final Ashes test in the summer against the old enemy Australia. In the second innings of the decisive test, Trott persevered against tough pace bowling and tenacious spin in order to make his maiden test century on his first start. This thrust him into the limelight of the barmy army, making him an icon for young cricketers playing in the counties. He showed that hard work and determination were key to progressing to the next level.
The next summer, Trott was at it again, this time scoring a huge double hundred which saw him and Stuart Broad put on 332 for the 8th wicket partnership. This, if even needed, cemented his place as England’s number three batsmen for the foreseeable future, eventually helping them to the number 1 test spot in the summer of 2011. Not only did he secure a spot in the test team, he became a part of the ODI set up too. Being a stable rock in the middle order, he allowed the other mavericks like Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan to bat around him and make quick runs, whilst he dug in and anchored England to massive totals.
As well as everything was going for Trott, things turned sour on the tour of Australia in 2014. After a series of poor performances, Trott revealed to the world that he was suffering from a form of stress-related illness. He immediately dropped out of the squad and returned home to seek help for the illness, similarly to what Marcus Trescothick suffered eight years prior.
In place of Trott, England turned to uncapped Gary Ballance as a short term replacement. He played in the fifth test, in which England succumbed to a 5-0 whitewash for the second time since the turn of the millennium. Ballance had a better 2014, scoring a three centuries in test matches, the highlight being his 156 against India at the Ageas bowl. His fluidity at the crease and positive mindset made him a force to be reckoned with at the top of the order in the test team.
Similarly to Trott, England used Ballance as part of the ODI setup, except he was used an aggressor to kick-start the innings if an early wicket fell rather than an anchor. The successes of this are very hit and miss due to the inconsistency of the England team at this time. Ballance also features in the T20 set-up for England, with his reputation in the NatWest T20 Blast as a pinch hitter being translated into an international call-up. However, it is hard for him to cement a spot in this line-up due to the tough competition from the likes of Moeen Ali and Luke Wright.
To answer the question of Jonathan Trott or Gary Ballance, I would edge slightly towards the latter. The reason for this is that he has many years ahead of him, provided he remains fit, and he has a certain technique which makes sure he has no obvious weaknesses. If he is truly fit again, Trott would be a superb reserve if Ballance or another batsman were to be injured or lose form, but with everything in place I don’t see him being able to dislodge any of the batsmen currently occupying the middle order.
Moreover, it is unlikely that Trott will be the same as his former self. Mental illness is a very serious thing and is underestimated by people who don’t perform at the high levels that these international sports people part take in. As sure as he is of himself being fit again, there’s nothing to say that he could not and will not relapse and suffer from this illness again in the future, especially if he has to face an attack similar to the one that the Aussies used against him in the 2013-14 Ashes series. All of this ultimately leads to the same question, Does Trott’s career hang in the Ballance?
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