It is one of the beauties of cricket that within the overall narrative of a game lie so many smaller stories, the plays within the play.
Jimmy Anderson had already bowled five immaculate overs against South Africa when he produced another of such cunning malevolence that for sheer bowling intellect and skill, it must rank with the best he has produced this year.
Robin Peterson, the left-hander promoted in the order to hurry things along and put England off their stride was facing. Anderson decided to go around the wicket. For once in the competition, the air was sufficiently warm and humid that even the unforgiving white Kookaburra was bending to his will in an orthodox fashion that would brook no argument as to its probity.
Anderson slanted the ball in towards Peterson and then drifted it away, so that Peterson found himself bunting at fresh air. The bowler repeated the dose, tantalising in line and length so that a stroke had to be offered and again the ball passed beyond the prodding blade to end up in the increasingly secure hands of Jos Buttler. He went a little closer this time and the batsman, not to be drawn, thrust out a pad and flagged the ball through. "I'm wise to you now," he seemed to be saying.
The beauty of Anderson's bowling, something that elevates him to the highest echelons of his craft, is his capacity to set up a batsman. Other pacemen may bludgeon their way to wickets: they become muggers. Anderson plays them as a fly‑fisherman would a salmon, and then strikes. He was not quite ready to finish the sting yet though. Just a little more to drag the batsman across his crease. Another away swinger and another leave. Now though came the killer blow. Gradually, without the batsman realising it, Anderson had been pulling Peterson towards the off-side, so that anything aimed at the stumps now would see him having to play across his front pad.
So Anderson set the ball off down the line off middle, and, as it held up slightly in the air, Peterson's bat had nowhere to go as it desperately tried to make some sort of contact. Anderson spreadeagled his appeal, and his job was done. It was utterly mesmerising, the sort of slicing-and-dicing that once characterised the bowling of Richard Hadlee.
Anderson is vital to England's chances of winning the Champions Trophy but he needs help from the conditions. At Edgbaston, against Australia, it came from reverse swing, advantage taken of the abrasive nature of pitch and environs; at Cardiff it was seam movement from a dampish surface; at The Oval, natural orthodox swing. Only in the match at The Oval against Sri Lanka, when there was none of these, was he neutered. Now he will be hoping that either the overhead conditions or the Edgbaston abrasion remain.
Neither is certain, for a change in the weather pattern is predicted for the weekend, while the recent rain may have just softened the number of used pitches that helped to scuff the ball into a condition to reverse swing the ball. But there cannot be a grander stage from which to display your wares than the televised final of a global tournament, and Anderson now has the chance to secure his status as the best in the business at what he does.
Try as he might, Jonathan Trott seems destined never be spoken of with quite the same measure of respect or affection as Anderson. He is too slow, some say, too self-absorbed. He is the sea-anchor, others suggest, that holds up the progress of an England ODI innings rather than holds it together. Undue pressure is placed on the lower order to score quickly by his upper order tempo. But that is what he is asked to do, and, at the same time, the remit of Eoin Morgan, Buttler and Ravi Bopara is precisely what they have been doing. The brief may suit him handsomely but Trott bats to order.
To understand Trott further it is necessary to look beyond his overall statistics, and concentrate on the batsman he has become. He does not hurry at the start, rather laying down his own foundations, but the longer the innings, the more he accelerates.
On Wednesday, South Africa played into his hands by allowing him carte blanche to bat for as long as it took to win the game: he responded with an unbeaten 82 at all but a run a ball to guide England home.
His record this year has been reflected in his performance in this tournament. He has played 10 ODIs in 2013, and has scored 563 runs, averaging more than 80 and at a strike rate close to 87 runs per hundred balls.
It is in this tournament that he has excelled, underpinning England's cautious but hitherto successful strategy of creating a solid base from which to launch a late charge. Three batsmen have scored in excess of 200 runs, with the remarkable Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan, already surely the batsman of the tournament, way out in front with 332 runs and at a strike rate of almost a run a ball.
Next on the list comes Kumar Sangakkara, with 222 runs, and an average of 74, including his century masterclass against England. Then, with 209 runs, and an average of a shade under 70 comes Trott. But here is the rub: Sangakkara's strike rate is 80.14; that of Trott 89.69. It is quite telling. You won't find #sangasfault on Twitter.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © SmithGreg