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Jon Culley at New Road
June 1, 2012
Somerset 277 for 7 (Compton 108) trail Worcestershire 340 by 63 runs
He got there in the end, if a day too late. Denied ultimately by the weather, although typically blaming himself for missed opportunities earlier in the journey, Nick Compton may have failed to reach 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May but has the consolation of becoming the earliest to reach the mark since the man who last achieved it.
Compton's third Championship century of the summer - and his fourth in an almost-historic sequence of 13 first-class innings that also includes a 99 - took him to 1,049 runs for the season. He is the quickest into four figures by date since Graeme Hick completed his 1,000 on the same ground on May 28, 1988. That distinction had been held for the last eight years by Rob Key, the Kent and former England batsman, who passed 1,000 on June 2 in 2004.
It had been Compton's bad luck to be stranded on 9 not out when rain halted play less than an hour after lunch on the second day. He had waited for three hours subsequently, either staring at the covers on the square from the players' balcony or inquiring with the umpires as to why they were not being removed at moments when it seemed the drizzle had stopped. But to no avail.
At the start of the third day, delayed for 35 minutes by more rain, it was as if he had determined that he would at least get there no more than one day in arrears. The core of his batting philosophy these days is never to sell his wicket cheaply but seldom can he have applied it more rigorously.
Bizarrely, he scored a boundary off the fifth ball of the day, with something of a loose stroke, by his standards, to a ball from David Lucas outside off stump that he played some way from his body. It would be the last moment of anything that could be remotely likened to indiscretion.
The shot took him to 13 not out from 27 balls. He had faced 77 more before his next boundary advanced his score to 25. Even by his own risk-nothing policy, this was extraordinarily cautious stuff, so patient that in one particularly watchful period he saw off 30 deliveries in a row without taking a run.
Then, as if he were suddenly sure of the outcome, finally certain beyond any inkling of self-doubt that he had the measure of the situation, he began to identify chances he could take. From 21, he reached 59 - the magic number - in only 36 more balls.
It came at around 10 minutes to three - 24 hours later than he would have preferred, for sure but with no sense of failure in his reaction. Having cracked Gareth Andrew for a superb drive through the covers off the back foot, bringing him his 10th boundary to that point, he dabbed the next ball to third man for a comfortable single. As he ran, he celebrated with a clenched fist and a shout of "yes", then dropped to one knee and pumped his right arm, getting up to embrace his partner, Jos Buttler, and acknowledge the warm applause from the home spectators.
Clearly relieved to have the burden of expectation lifted from him, delighted with himself for having maintained his concentration despite the disappointment he had felt the day before, Compton steadied himself, content to play second fiddle again, if not quite so quietly.
He and Jos Buttler added 167 in 34 overs for the fifth wicket, enough to banish the possibility, briefly suggested that the Somerset innings might have crumbled when James Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter fell in consecutive balls to Jack Shantry before lunch.
Hildreth, whose innings Compton had made to seem freakishly quick, hit 52 off only 76 balls before Shantry pinned him in the crease. Their partnership for the third wicket put on 75 in 25.1 overs, to which Compton contributed 17. It rewarded a spell of tight, disciplined bowling from Shantry and Gareth Andrew. Shantry followed it up with an equally good ball, one that moved away enough to find the edge as Kieswetter reached forward.
Buttler matched Hildreth's aggressive approach, gathering 14 fours, plus a six off Moeen Ali's offspin. He had an escape, on 23, when Lucas could not hold a return catch but clearly felt he had missed an opportunity when, on 85, he lofted a leg side stroke off the same bowler and was caught by Matt Pardoe at deep midwicket. He whacked the bat against his pad as he walked away.
Compton completed his century half an hour after tea, before the second new ball, at the first sight of which Peter Trego gave a catch, well held, to Pardoe at extra cover; his defences beaten at last. It gave a fourth wicket to Shantry, the left-arm seamer, who moved one away a little to beat his upright bat and clip off stump.
There was disappointment again, but rather less, one suspected than the evening before, when he realised his sleepless nights had come to nothing. He will not yet sit alongside Bradman and Hammond and Edrich and Grace in the record books but he is a fine batsman regardless of that, worthy of the family name. There is probably not scope, from here, to forge a result in this match but it has been an uplifting occasion, nonetheless.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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