As Mad as O'Keefe, as Good as Trott

One of the only entertaining aspects of the deathless one-day series between England and Australia (for anyone who's fallen asleep, it's still going on but mercifully ends tomorrow) has been the commentary of the one and only Kerry O'Keefe. I've heard snatches of him before, but the fact that TMS has taken the ABC coverage wholesale has brought his genius to a wider audience.

With O'Keefe you get some of the most bizarre comments you'll ever hear, delivered with the wit and timing of a superb natural comedian, but mixed in with the stuff that makes you laugh are shafts of observation which make you sit up and think, even if he's not saying anything that's unusual or extraordinary. An example of this came the other day, when O'Keefe described Jonathan Trott as 'the best leg-side player to come to Australia in the last twenty years'.

This was noteworthy, not because it isn't true but because it still seems a little strange that people who have really seen some cricket are saying such things about Jonathan Trott. Yes, that's Jonathan Trott. Plays for Warwickshire, rising 30, losing his hair, with a perpetual scowl on his face and a batting style which even his best friend wouldn't write home about. But currently the owner of some of the best damn batting stats on the planet and a man who looks as sure of his place as anyone in an England side which is as stable as they come (in Test cricket, anyway).

Before Trott came into the England team in the late summer of 2009 I'd seen bits and pieces of him on TV. At times he looked quite classy, but he never seemed to have that many runs to show for it, and it's hard to assess people's temperaments on the basis of a truncated innings in a county hit-and-giggle game. He made runs here and there for the Lions, but if anyone had told you that two years on he'd be up there with the world's greatest run-machines, you'd have thought they were as mad as Kerry O'Keefe.

Trott, though, is tough. His unemotional demeanour reflects both his upbringing in a country where cricket is taken a bit more seriously than in England, and the fact that he has had to fight every step of the way to establish himself in an England side to which many people felt he didn't belong. Like Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan before him, this is a man who breathes more easily in the rarefied air of Test cricket than the safer surroundings of the county game. In a country which has had more than its fair share of players who have done things the other way round - at least one of whom also began life in Africa - such players are like gold dust.

Late in a long winter, two English batsman stand out. Alastair Cook, who had the good sense to get out of Australia before a constant diet of limited-over cricket started to sap his will to live, and Jonathan Trott. Both could be flashier and more elegant, but both hate, really hate, getting out.

To use the oldest phrase in the book of timeless cricket cliches, it's not how, but how many.

And Jonathan Trott is currently making as many runs as anyone, anywhere.

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