JONATHAN TROTT has been selected for England Lions’ new year tour of South Africa, marking the first step in a possible full international comeback.
The 33-year-old batsman has not featured for England since his premature departure from last winter’s Ashes tour, initially attributed to a stress-related illness.
An aborted return to county cricket with Warwickshire in April raised major doubts about his future, but after a second attempt to return to the game Trott finished the season in impressive form. That has persuaded the England and Wales Cricket Board that the time is right to reintegrate him into their plans – albeit tentatively – with a place in the provisional 14-man group that will play two first-class matches against his native South Africa in January.
Yet that itself is a significant sign, with the Lions firmly viewed these days as the group from which the senior squad will select when places become available. He has not been kept on for the five one-day matches that follow, suggesting he is now seen primarily as a candidate for the Test squad despite impressive limited-overs form at the tail end of the campaign.
Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Trott confirmed he was eyeing a full Test comeback and credited his time in the domestic game with assisting his recovery. “I seem to have found myself in a situation where I’m enjoying cricket again,” he told the station. “I still have aspirations to play for England. If I do hopefully play for England again, I’ve got to earn my place back. ”
Middlesex batsman Sam Robson, who opened the batting in all seven Test matches this summer, will join Trott in the first-class squad – indicating his inconsistent form at the top of the order has left questions to answer. And there is also a call-up for 22-year-old Kent off-spinner Adam Riley, tipped by many to emerge as the likeliest long-term heir to Graeme Swann.
Trott, Robson and Riley will be replaced by Lancashire spinner Stephen Parry, Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel and explosive Surrey batsman Jason Roy for the one-day leg. Of the 11 players taking part in both formats, seven come from LV= County Champions Yorkshire.
Adam Lyth and Alex Lees, the White Rose county’s prolific openers, will both have the chance to measure up against Robson – with all three effectively shooting at the same Test spot alongside Alastair Cook.
Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance, who share 22 Test caps and 19 ODI appearances, are also included as England attempt to keep their wider squad involved ahead of the World Cup. Seamers Jack Brooks, Liam Plunkett and all-rounder Adil Rashid complete the Yorkshire contingent.
Sussex coach Mark Robinson will lead the side again, with a captain due to be named upon England’s World Cup squad announcement in December.
Several squad members, notably Roy, Bairstow and Ballance, might yet force their way in.
Explaining the balance between tried-and-tested internationals and younger prospects, Whitaker added: “For the likes of Sam Billings, Craig Overton and Adam Riley to be playing alongside Sam Robson, Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow in a Lions tour is an exciting prospect for the future of English cricket, and I am certain that all of the players will learn a great deal from the experience.”
• South Africa have moved to the top of the ICC one-day rankings for the first time in five years, the Proteas climbing above Australia following their 2-0 series win in New Zealand.
The last time South Africa headed the ODI rankings was in September 2009 but they slipped down the standings after their first round elimination from the ICC Champions Trophy at home later that month. South Africa trailed Australia by one point before the three-match ODI series against New Zealand and though the third and final match in Hamilton was washed out on Monday, the 2-0 result was enough to take them up to the top of the table.