Rain denies Compton historic May mark
Somerset 27 for 2 trail Worcestershire 340 (Solanki 106, Trego 5-75) by 313 runs
If a feat is achieved only nine times in 117 years, it is usually because it has a high degree of difficulty. It should come as no real surprise, then, that Nick Compton fell short in his bid to join the company of WG Grace, Don Bradman, Wally Hammond, Bill Edrich, Tom Hayward, Charlie Hallows, Glenn Turner and Graeme Hick in scoring 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May.
The 28-year-old Somerset batsman, who needed to score 59 runs by close of play, was thwarted by the weather, in the end, stuck on 950. Worcestershire's collapse to 340 all out from 270 for 3 overnight allowed Somerset to begin their first innings immediately after lunch.
An early wicket ushered Compton to the crease within 24 minutes, in his usual position at No. 3 in the order, but he had been there only half an hour when umpires Martin Bodenham and Trevor Jesty took the players off for rain. They never came back. Thus Somerset will resume at the start of day three on 27 for 2, having also lost Arul Suppiah, who pulled a ball from Richard Jones straight to the fielder at square leg.
Despite a fine performance from Peter Trego, who clipped Worcestershire's wings by taking 5 for 75 from 37 overs as the temporary leader of Somerset's youthful attack, the visitors have much ground to make up in response to a Worcestershire innings that may have crumbled at the end but had substance at its base in the form of a beautifully composed century from Vikram Solanki.
Play was called off at 5.30pm. Compton, watched by his parents, Richard and Glynis, who are on a holiday in England from their home in South Africa, had faced 22 balls and scored nine runs, four of which came from a nicely executed cover drive off David Lucas.
"It is all a bit of an anticlimax," he said afterwards. "I must be honest there have been a few sleepless nights thinking about the possibility of getting those thousand runs. The more articles you read, the more you think about those illustrious cricketing names that have achieved it, you start to pinch yourself and start to think 'wow, it would be really great if I could be one of them'.
"But I've only got myself to blame, really. I had an opportunity in the last game against Durham, when I got to 60-odd on a good wicket, with Ian Blackwell bowling and the field well spread out, but started to get complacent and ahead of myself and ended up hitting a short ball straight to midwicket, which is very unlike me.
"It was there for the taking, really. I've been unlucky with the rain here today but in England you can never take the weather for granted. I did make quite a few visits to the umpires' room this afternoon, I must admit, wondering if we could get out there again but, as ever England has let me down with the weather.
"I would have liked us to have batted first yesterday, of course. I was a bit nervous and wanted to have a bat. But the bigger picture is that there is a game to win and these records can get in the way in some ways.
"I'm disappointed for my parents. They had not come over here specifically for this but I don't see them very often and it would have been great to have done it with them here."
Rain, of course, is an occupational hazard for any cricketer in any season and is another reason why 1,000 in May has such rarity value.
Bradman did it twice, on the second occasion, extraordinarily, in only seven innings on the 1938 Australian tour, which he began by scoring 258 at Worcester. But the names that underline the scale of the challenge are those that the achievement eluded: Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Frank Woolley to name but three whose career aggregates each exceeded 50,000.
Nick's grandfather, the peerless Denis, could not do it, even in the summer of 1947, at the end of which he had amassed an astonishing 3,816 runs in first-class games. And no one has managed it since Hick in 1988.
The new Compton has honed himself as a gritty, unshowy accumulator in complete contrast to the flamboyant, attacking style that identified the "Brylcreem Boy", Denis, in his pomp, but it is a method that has served him handsomely this season, and the possibility that he would add his own line to the Compton legend has been discussed on an almost daily basis since the third week in April.
By then he had already scored 685 from only six innings, including two double-hundreds, eclipsing Hick's April record of 410. But he has lately faltered a little, relatively speaking. His last six innings have included three more half-centuries but in total only 256 more runs. The visit of struggling Durham to batsman-friendly Taunton last week - during the first hot spell of the summer, moreover - seemed to offer the perfect opportunity, but he was out for 64 and 8. His 13th innings, here at New Road, was certainly unlucky.
There have been suggestions, because the English domestic season now starts so early, that the achievement would be devalued but it is an argument that is easily dismantled by the history of the record.
While Hammond, for example, did not face a ball before May 7, he still took 13 innings to reach 1,000, the same number as was required by Hayward, only one of them in April. Edrich, who began on April 30, passed the milestone in his 15th visit to the crease. Glenn Turner, who launched the 1973 New Zealand tour of England by becoming the seventh name on the list, needed 18.
It could even be argued that, faced with such an early start, with pitches damp and heavily favouring medium pace bowlers, the accomplishment is of greater value. This season, in particular, seems to have brought more complaints than ever from disgruntled batsmen frustrated by the vagaries of underprepared green seamers.
Compton is not the first contender to fall short in recent seasons. Two years ago, Yorkshire's Adam Lyth went into the Roses match at Headingley on May 29 needed 147 from two potential opportunities. In a rain-affected match, however, he was restricted to one innings, in which he was out for a second-ball duck.
Last season, Compton's Somerset captain, Marcus Trescothick, was particularly unlucky. The former England opener began the last match of his quest needing an unlikely 362 runs against Yorkshire at Taunton and finished it, agonisingly, a mere 22 short.
He made 189 in the first innings and 151 not out in the second as Somerset chased 228 to win, denied only because the target was reached and the match ended.
On a more positive note, Compton admitted that with the weight of the record now off his back he could focus more on his greater goal of playing Test cricket.
"As time has gone on the anxiety has built up and it is a relief to be able to move on now," he said. "The record was not something I was aware of at the start of the season and I suppose I should pat myself on the back for getting so close.
"But scoring a thousand runs was never the big goal for me. Ever since I have been very small the goal has been to be a Test batsman and I have worked very hard over the winter to challenge myself in tough conditions and learn how to get through at the top of the innings.
"The hunger and desire I have had, thinking I could be among those great names, has been the same hunger and desire that has got me to where I am. The mental application I have worked on has enabled me to be ruthless where in the past, having got to a hundred, I might have thought I had enough runs and it wouldn't matter if I was out.
"That work does not stop now and if I can be the next cab off the rank and maybe get a winter tour place that would be fantastic."