Latest from the Lions Tour

Tuesday 24th February 2009

ROBBIE JOSEPH has flown into Christchurch to join the England Lions tour of New Zealand after an arduous journey from the West Indies via London.

Joseph was called up to replace his Kent fast-bowling colleague Amjad Khan, who disappeared in the opposite direction last week to strengthen England’s senior squad in the Caribbean. Joseph will rest during this week’s second two-day practice match against New Zealand Emerging Players at Lincoln University and he is unlikely to be considered for the opening four-day Test against New Zealand A in Queenstown, starting on Sunday.

Weather conditions could hardly have provided a greater contrast, as Christchurch was swept by chilly rain and glowering clouds, reducing practice time at Lincoln University for the Lions. The soggy conditions also hit India’s squad while they shared facilities in preparation for Wednesday’s Twenty20 international against the Black Caps in the city.

Jonathan Trott is the only Lions players with much New Zealand experience, so it was especially irritating for the senior man to make a second-ball duck in the first practice match at Lincoln.

Three seasons ago the Warwickshire man enjoyed a spectacular season as an emerging all-rounder during his four-month stint with Otago, and in his only previous appearance at Lincoln University he scored a century rather than the no-stroke embarrassment against New Zealand Emerging Players on Monday.

Trott became a renowned cricketer on South Island with the main provincial rivals to Christchurch-based Canterbury. He excelled in both four-day and one-day formats, though surprisingly he did not play at Queenstown, the venue for the Lions’ first four-day Test against New Zealand A next weekend.

His only taste of Queenstown was as a spectator to watch New Zealand play Sri Lanka and meet up with his former Warwickshire colleague Trevor Penney, one of the coaches. They had plenty to talk about as they put on 397 together in a second-team match in 2002 when Trott made a double-hundred on debut.

But Trott’s input should be very useful to the captain Rob Key (pictured) when the Lions move on to the beautiful mountain district ground an hour’s flight from Christchurch to the south-west. Trott said: "I’m looking forward to it. The weather here in New Zealand generally determines how the wicket is going to be. If there are a couple of hot days you can expect a batting wicket, but if it’s cloudy like this week it’s more likely to do a bit for the bowlers. You could say the same for the whole country.

"Weather conditions over here play a huge factor. If you rock up at a county ground you know you’re going to get a pretty flat wicket, but here there’s a bit of ’both’ in it. Slower seam bowlers like myself can be really hard to get away if you put the ball in the right area. The wind can make quite a bit of difference. It can be hard work for bowlers. I don’t think I’ve played in wind like this in Birmingham, ever."

It was at Otago that Trott staked his claim as a good quality all-rounder. "I did well with the bat, and funnily enough these conditions suited me with the ball as well," he said. "It was pleasing, and in fact I bowled so much I ended up bowling with a stress fracture in my back in January and February. It was was probably a good wake-up call because I needed to be fitter and stronger. I don’t think I went over to New Zealand as bowling fit as I had to be."

In one-day cricket Trott’s batting average has risen to an exceptional 41.86 — better than Key’s 31.99 — and his Warwickshire form won him two Twenty20 call-ups for England and nothing more. Not yet anyway.

In that first Lions game at Lincoln, Trott looked head and shoulders above his colleagues as a seam-bowler, finding the right length quickly, beating the bat and taking three inexpensive wickets. So despite his duck, the lasting impression was favourable. That is the advantage of being an all-rounder, but in the longer game Key starts the tour closer to a senior call-up.

From Charles Randall in Christchurch