July 8, 2013

Compton guests with style and grace

Worcestershire have taken great pleasure in hosting the touring Australians since 1902 - but it's another guest who has been the talk of the town

It's rare as a Worcestershire fan to have an opportunity to discuss the England Test team with reference to goings on at New Road. The last Worcestershire player to put on the England whites was Kabir Ali in 2003 and of the current squad Moeen Ali seems to possess the most realistic prospect of a future cap, after a terrific summer so far.

So this week, with the Australians in town, and Nick Compton 'guesting' for the Pears we've had the chance to ponder the treatment of an adopted son.

The man of the moment has conducted himself with style and grace, befitting the class act he is both on and off the field. Not only did he score an elegant 81 on Wednesday but he also took to Twitter to thank Worcestershire "for having me" ahead of the final day.

It was a sentiment more befitting of a petrified teenager visiting his girlfriend's house for the first time and stumbling over himself with politeness, than a cricketer scorned by his country.

Of course, Compton has been here before. Last season he came to New Road on the verge of achieving 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May. He scored the runs he needed, 108 of them in fact, but it all came one day too late by which time the hastily-assembled mini media circus had moved on.

This time he arrived on Wednesday already knowing that his target this year - a place in the Ashes side at Trent Bridge - was beyond his grasp no matter what he did out in the middle.

Now that he's an adopted Worcestershire player, it's only right that I stick up for Compton, despite my overwhelming feeling that Joe Root is the long-term opening partner for Alistair Cook. Compton has been the victim of indecisive management - thrust into the England side in the winter as a stopgap, only to surprise the selectors with his graft in India and run-scoring in New Zealand. They should have stuck by him despite a disappointing early summer against the Kiwis.

Of course, this game ultimately proved pretty meaningless to both Compton and the media who flocked to New Road to watch Australia get a glorified net against a young Pears side.

But the week meant a whole lot more to the people of Worcestershire and indeed the West Midlands and beyond. The nearest Ashes Test this summer takes place at Trent Bridge, a mere 80 miles from New Road and even further for those who follow England in the South West and South Wales.

The full houses and unfamiliar faces, coupled with weather reminiscent of a bygone era when we knew a season called 'summer', have shown our little patch of heaven in its best possible light. Myself and other Worcestershire fans often grumble about a lack of proactivity when it comes to day-to-day marketing at the club. But, while four days of cricket against Australia may not be the hardest sell, the club has stepped up and reminded everyone why the Australians have kept coming back for over a century.

There is, though, genuine frustration amongst the fan base that we have to wait until August for our next day of first-class cricket at New Road. That feeling is exacerbated by the predicted forecast for July, the fact that there was no cricket at HQ in April and that our T20 campaign, although lifted by victory against Gloucestershire on Sunday, has got off to a poor start start (more on our T20 campaign in my next blog).

With four home Championship games scheduled in August and September you can more or less guarantee a wet end to the summer. As ever, we await the annual rejig to the county calendar with trepidation.

Craig Nicholson describes himself as a cricket writer masquerading as a magazine sub-editor. Guilty of excessive hashtagging on Twitter here