Compton preys on wretched Notts
Nottinghamshire 162 and 47 for 0 trail Somerset 445 for 2 by 236 runs
Maybe it is genetics, maybe it is coincidence, maybe it is simply a respect for the timeless values of cricket, but the Compton family seems to like batting at Trent Bridge.
Here, on the ground where Denis enjoyed such success, his grandson Nick provided another reminder of his considerable qualities with the third century - and second double-century - of what is already turning into a remarkable season. With more than a week to go to the start of May, Compton has already amassed 685 first-class runs at an average of 137. Few are seriously suggesting changes in England's top-order but here is an interesting (and rhetorical) question to ponder: who, given equal opportunity, would score more Test runs this summer, Andrew Strauss or Nick Compton?
Denis Compton's record at Trent Bridge is remarkable. In seven Tests, he accumulated 955 runs at an average of 95.50, with five centuries and a top score of 278 against Pakistan in 1954. While Nick Compton will surely never reach such heights, his record this season is still impressive: after 236 against Cardiff MCCU, he scored 99 against Middlesex, 133 against Warwickshire and now this innings against Nottinghamshire. In 1947, the year when Denis scored 3,816 first-class runs, it took until June 2 to reach 700 runs. There again, Denis did not start quite so early…
Compton was not alone in filling his boots against a strangely off-colour attack. Arul Suppiah and James Hildreth also recorded centuries, with Hildreth - who now has 411 - the second-highest run-scorer this season. It meant that, on a pitch where only one Nottinghamshire batsman could score more than ten, their bowlers were unable to claim even a single bowling point. Somerset, treating the bowling with a level of contempt rarely witnessed at this level, lost just two wickets in claiming all five batting points and declaring with a lead of 283.
There are mitigating factors for Nottinghamshire. As a result of losing the toss, they batted in tricky conditions and bowled when they had eased. In surviving a testing 12 over spell before stumps, their openers also demonstrated some backbone in trying circumstances.
But they would do well not to blame misfortune. They have also played some remarkably poor cricket so far in this match and they are not the only team missing a top performer. Too many of the batsmen, the blameless Chris Read apart, squandered their wickets, the bowlers failed to adhere to the basic principles of line and length and their fielding was wretched.
Wretched is a strong word, but when every tight single is reached with ease, when every boundary save fails and when catches are put down like the sort that Paul Franks, at third man, dropped to reprieve Hildreth on 70, then no other word will suffice. While other counties have raised their levels of fitness and agility to new levels, Nottinghamshire were stuck in a 1970s time warp where bowlers and all-rounders were content with perfunctory dives. Most counties have to hide a player or two in the field; Nottinghamshire had to hide half the side. There is not a top division attack in the country that is so poorly supported in the field.
But the most disappoint aspect of Nottinghamshire's cricket iwa that the real difference between them and Somerset has been application. While the hosts lacked patience and flirted outside off stump, Somerset's batsmen left well and took the time to play themselves in. And while Somerset's bowlers kept asking questions of the batsmen on and around off stump, Nottinghamshire's fed the cut and the pull and, in the crucial first session, simply failed to make the batsmen play. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Andre Adams, missing this game with flu, has masked holes in this side for too long.
Perhaps most disappointing of all was Samit Patel. While the pitch offered him little, he was unable to stem the flow of runs; an ability an international class bowler simply has to possess. Somerset's batsmen did not just milk him: they churned him up and turned him into yogurt.
Franks, at least, could celebrate the 500th first-class wicket of a career that, when it started in 1996, perhaps promised even more. But this was a day when Compton and co. showed that the basics of cricket - play straight, play compact and play yourself in - are as true now as they have ever been. They did all the simple things better than Nottinghamshire and have a great chance to press for success on day four.
Somerset's success should also give them confidence to deal with the absence of Marcus Trescothick. It is, in the words of Somerset's director of cricket, Brian Rose, "pretty certain" that Trescothick will not play any more cricket for the "next couple of weeks at least." Trescothick suffered a recurrence of an old ankle ligament injury in the field on Friday, was taken for scans in Derby and will see a specialist in Exeter on Monday.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo