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September 12, 2013
Surrey 195 (Thomas 4-23) and 13 for 0 trail Somerset 260 (Compton 66, Trego 38, Ansari 3-30) by 52 runs
There was no England selector at Taunton yesterday so in the spirit of co-operation, here is a summary for the next meeting of the top table. NRD Compton v Surrey, Taunton, September 12: Runs 66. Balls: 88. Dollars (looking like): A million. A few facts to gather dust ahead of the announcement of the Ashes squad on September 23.
Observing Compton in this form begs the question why England seemingly drew such a heavy line under his Test career. Opting to open with Joe Root in the Ashes was one thing; allowing Compton's exclusion to be seen as perpetual banishment was quite another.
England, it seemed, observed a couple of tortuous innings against New Zealand and took a view, but watching his clear-headed strokeplay at Taunton begged the question of exactly which opener would offer more reliable opening cover for the tour of Australia? Compton remains short of 1,000 first-class runs this season - so does every Somerset batsman - but he averages 48 which is respectable enough. Michael Carberry, incidentally averages 40 for Hampshire in Division Two. To opt for Varun Chopra would be a gamble on an untried player at international level.
There was a time just before lunch when it was possible to imagine that this was a top-of-the table encounter, not a match between two candidates for relegation. Compton, in league with Craig Kieswetter, was central to that, counterpunching with style against a highly-regarded Surrey pace attack. The quality of the strokeplay was as good as you could wish to witness. Taunton was a good place to be.
In this troubled Somerset season, home supporters drank it in like they might soak up the last sunshine of summer, regarding it as all the sweeter because they knew how ephemeral it would be.
Kieswetter fell softly on the stroke of lunch, driving loosely to cover; and soon after the resumption, Compton became one of two wickets in an over for Jade Dernbach as he tried to guide behind square on the off side and played on. It was a frustrating end, but he was the only Somerset batsman to give the impression of permanence.
At 133 for 6, the Somerset scoreboard had a familiar ring to it, but they found something within themselves to reach 260, securing two priceless batting bonus points and a first-innings lead of 65. Surrey's second innings began briefly, but bad light stole 20 overs from the day.
If enterprise was the impression as Compton and Kieswetter added 62 for the fourth wicket, the stand of 68 between Peter Trego and Craig Meschede for the seventh wicket was a judicious one. A brilliant catch by the 18-year-old debutant, Dom Sibley, at deep cover silenced Trego. Piyush Chawla also dug in for 32 at No. 10; a late overseas acquisition respecting the opportunity he has been given.
But all that felt like struggle; it was the hour up to lunch that raised the spirits. Compton drove vigorously and Kieswetter's dash was backed up by rapid running between the wickets. Compton was dropped off Dernbach on 42, a challenging low catch to Vikram Solanki at second slip, diving across Gareth Batty at first, and Meaker was ill-served by several thick edges to third man (fashionably unguarded), but the overriding mood of a stand of 62 in 12 overs was one of optimism.
Somerset had begun the day with a little victory, denying Surrey a batting bonus point as Alfonso Thomas snaffled the last two wickets without a run added. But Surrey struck back immediately when Somerset lost both openers for nought, with Marcus Trescothick dragging on third ball - a reward for Dernbach's insistent line.
Trescothick's immediate desire to retain the Somerset captaincy had been reasserted in timely fashion in his column in the Western Daily Press. "What I can say is I love captaining Somerset as much as I love the club itself and at this point I have no intention of handing over the reins," he said. "I know there are people who have looked at my shortage of runs this season and linked it to the added pressure of being skipper - but I have been doing the job for four seasons and I don't believe it has any adverse effect on my form. I enjoy the challenge and it remains my dream to lead the team to the success we all crave."
Success was not the word that sprung immediately to mind. Survival will do for a start.
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