England captain Alastair Cook has backed Jonathan Trott to show his pedigree in the decisive third Test against the West Indies.
Trott has endured a tricky time in the Caribbean, averaging just 15.75 runs in four innings alongside Cook at the top of the order – but he will get another chance in Barbados today.
Question marks over his position are exacerbated by the fact the 34-year-old has just been recalled after an 18-month absence brought about by situational anxiety.
That condition ended his 2013-14 Ashes after just one match and might also have brought his international career to a premature close.
But England were keen not to discard a player who had been a reliable anchor for them at No 3 for several years, and seized on the vacancy at the head of the innings to bring him back into the fold.
Cook, who has seen the likes of Joe Root, Nick Compton, Michael Carberry and Sam Robson come and go at the head of the innings, is understood to have been a major advocate of Trott’s comeback and expects him to repay that faith when England look to preserve their 1-0 lead a the Kensington Oval.
There have been two ducks and a score of four so far, as well as some dubious footwork issues – but Cook saw positive signs in a gritty 59 in last week’s nine-wicket win in Grenada.
That means there is unlikely to be the hoped-for debut for Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth as Cook’s opening partner.
“Trotty’s been working hard and he is a fine, fine cricketer who is adjusting to a different role,” said Cook.
“Hopefully, he can do what he has done a huge amount of times in his career and produce an innings that we know he can play.
“I thought we saw a big glimpse of that in the first innings of the second Test.
“I thought he looked a lot more like the Jonathan Trott who had played 49 games before this tour.
“When you don’t score runs there are always other people waiting to take your place, that is no different for Trotty. But he’s got to relax, go out and play and be the best player he can be.
“The first 15 or 20 balls of an innings, the adrenaline is going, you’re desperate to do well and your movements are more exaggerated.”
After two unresponsive pitches in Antigua and Grenada, hopes are high for more signs of life in Barbados.
Home captain Denesh Ramdin said after slipping behind in the series he would request a “quick and fiery” pitch from the groundsmen, and is pondering playing a four-man pace attack.
A slight fitness concern over leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, coupled with all-clears for Jerome Taylor (shoulder) and Jason Holder (ankle), means they could join Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach in a pace quartet.
The pitch at the Kensington Oval is likely to be harder and bouncier than those at Antigua or Grenada, but leaving part-timer Marlon Samuels as the only spin option would still constitute a gamble. Slow left-armer Veerasammy Permaul has been summoned as cover, but Ramdin is pondering taking the risk.
“We will see how it goes in the morning, you never know, we could go all four seamers,” he said. “Holder had some bowling on Wednesday and a full net (yesterday), so he is fit and ready to go; Taylor is fit, he is ready.”
Quite how lively things will ultimately be in Bridgetown remains to be seen – and in recent years the talk has been spicier than the track – but the tourists have left nothing to chance.
“All the batters are preparing for what will come, naturally we’re preparing for the short stuff,” said Cook.
England have been travelling with a top-heavy 17-man squad since Moeen Ali joined up with the original party, five of whom have yet to feature.
There have been temptations to tinker, with Yorkshire’s leg-spinning all-rounder Adil Rashid looked at ahead of the second Test and Durham seamer Mark Wood impressing in the nets with his ability to swing the ball.
Rashid’s county colleague Liam Plunkett, meanwhile, has the height and dash of pace that make him a consideration in Barbados. He bowls an attacking line which has not always been present among the English seam quartet of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes.
But Cook hinted that an unchanged XI was his preference – a policy of consistency or conservatism, depending on your reading.
“The normal inclination is to go with the same team because you like to give people the confidence that they are not always playing for their place,” he said.
“You get stability when you’re winning and everyone knows their role in the team.”