Trott comeback ends in disappointment
Warwickshire 136 for 2 (Chopra 68*) beat Northamptonshire 133 for 7 (Crook 51*, Wright 3-37) by eight wickets
For Jonathan Trott, an unexpected comeback to first-team cricket proved to be a muted return but slow progress is better than none at all. The sight, although brief, of Trott going through his idiosyncratic preparations in between deliveries and marshalling the boundary, as he so often did in an England shirt, was enough in itself on his first appearance since April.
A single from seven balls will go down by has name in the scorebook but, should this game provide the platform for Trott to make a fighting return to the game, then everything else is immaterial. In the event, he was not required to contribute as Birmingham Bears made it four consecutive wins in the Natwest T20 Blast, a run of form which has seen them move up to third in the North Group.
It remains to be seen if Trott will be included for Warwickshire's Championship fixture against Yorkshire at the weekend. Although not originally named in the squad for this game, having not played since suffering a relapse of the stress-related illness that forced him home early from England's ill-fated tour of Australia, Varun Chopra, the Bears captain, said Trott's return "had been in the pipeline for a couple of weeks".
In the past month, Trott has scored a half-century and unbeaten 138 for the club's 2nd XI and while he couldn't transfer that form into this game, a return to the spotlight will stand him in good stead. Arriving at the crease with his side 95 for 1, Trott had ample time to attune himself. He got off the mark with a flick into the leg side but was undone a couple of balls later, chipping straight to midwicket.
Yet, as the TV cameras panned to the dugout, a glimpse of a broad smile put everything into perspective; he was just happy to back.
His team-mates ensured it would be a winning return as Chopra and William Porterfield combined to guide the Bears towards their victory target with four overs to spare. The latter's dismissal set the stage for Trott, who received a warm reception from the small numbers inside Edgbaston as he strode out to the crease.
Chopra led the way with an unbeaten fifty, typically wristy and powerful in equal measure as Northants' heads sank deeper into the outfield with every passing blow. There was a point when Trott's return was in danger of being limited to fleeting appearances in the field. Even then, his involvement was infrequent as Northants, for large parts, played like a side hoping to wrap up proceedings in time for the football: their wish was duly granted.
That they made something of a contest out of it was down to an assiduous half-century from Steven Crook. Inevitably, much of the discussion at the toss surrounded the inclusion of Trott's name on the scorecard but Chopra's decision to bowl first proved equally significant.
On the way to winning their first piece of silverware since 1992 at Edgbaston last August, the Steelbacks lost just three games throughout the campaign. After six games of their title defence, they've now lost three in quick succession and their grip on the trophy is loosening with each passing game.
The resolve that propelled them to success last term has all but evaporated. A confidence sapping run of form - they are yet to register a win - on their return to Division One of the Championship has spilled over to the shortest-format. The tone for the game was set in the Powerplay, if not the first over.
Chris Wright and Rikki Clarke, both hardened campaigners, needed no second invitation to tuck into Northants' beleaguered top-order: they had been tormented all week in the Championship and that continued into a fifth day.
The hosts proceeded to prove there were no demons in the pitch, just the ghosts of Northants' 2013 triumph.