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Lions in control

Monday 2nd March 2009

From Charles Randal in Queenstown

GLORIOUS mountain scenery seemed less admirable to fielders toiling through the best part of two days for little reward as Jonathan Trott ground New Zealand A into the velvety turf with an undefeated 138 for England Lions at the Frankton oval.

Samit Patel stepped in with a breezy 101 and Luke Wright made 55 off 50 balls while Trott jogged along to the longest innings of his career, an anchoring effort of six hours 20 minutes. The combination enabled Rob Key to declare at 493 for five on a pitch that — amazingly in view of the size of the total — always proved helpful to seam-bowling.

The New Zealanders, down to 10 men, faced a crushing defeat as a harsh punishment for their toss decision. Key admitted the Lions would have fielded first without realising that the bowlers would be hampered by soggy ground on the rain-restricted first day. In firmer conditions on the second day New Zealand simply did not earn any luck to worry Trott, Patel and company.

The first-day opening stand of Key (pictured) and Steve Moore was broken on 130 in the morning’s second over when Moore edged a Brent Arnel seamer to second slip. Key himself added only 10 runs before thin-edging a leg glance for 89. The Lions innings needed restoring, a task Patel and Trott did to perfection, and Arnel, well known at the Beckenham club in Kent, seemed the only bowler capable of stopping them.

Patel, due to join the senior England party in the Caribbean for the one-day series in a couple of weeks’ time, played with typical freedom as though taking his cue from Key. Big shots over extra cover and meaty cuts took him to his century in 136 balls, treating only Arnel with respect. He finished his day with a slip catch off Mark Davies — opening with Robbie Joseph — before New Zealand closed on 22 for one.

By then New Zealand A had lost the Northern Districts batsman Brad Watling with a broken hand — out for the season — when he tumbled fielding a routine Trott shot in the covers. Arnel whistled the second new ball past the bat on numerous occasions, but Trott showed his resourcefulness, and Wright climbed into the spinners, once driving the Wellington left-armer Luke Woodcock for a six and four in an over.

Ben Scott against took a limited chance by hitting 34 off 34 balls to set up the declaration, using every chance to score. His Middlesex colleague Eoin Morgan arrived at the crease at an awkward time following Patel’s dismissal with shine still on the ball.

He had to wait 15 deliveries for his first run — an edge past gully
— and he had grafted to 18 when he missed a ball of full length from Mitchell McClenaghan. Wright faced some unsettling movement from Arnel, but he survived and took the initiative away from the bowlers

Though Trott occasionally drove straight for a boundary, he was content to rotate the strike and hit only six fours. "It was my job to dig in and play," he said, "and luckily I had guys like Samit and Luke who came in and played freely. They helped me keep the score going. I was looking to force it towards the end but, with the way even the old ball was seaming around and bouncing, I felt as though I was still getting used to the conditions in New Zealand."

"It was pretty tricky out there after losing Rob. We had two guys starting together on nought, and the New Zealanders couldn’t have wished for a better start.

Photograph courtesy of Getty Images