Durham v Somerset, Chester-le-Street, 4th day April 23, 2014

Compton sends England a reminder


Somerset 185 (Trego 48, Rushworth 4-52, Onions 4-65) and 246 for 4 (Compton 100*, Kieswetter 78*) drew with Durham 308 (Jennings 80, Gregory 4-59) and 213 for 9 dec (Collingwood 52*, Gregory 4-91)

The last time that England made 400 in a Test, Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott scored centuries. Kevin Pietersen made 73, too.

So it is surprising that, with Trott and Pietersen now seemingly out of the picture, and England having failed to reach 400 since March 2013 - 13 Tests and 26 innings ago - that they seem to feel that they can do without Compton.

Compton, the most prolific run-scorer in the Championship over the last couple of years, provided another reminder of his abilities as he helped his Somerset side secure a draw on the final day of their game at Durham. Though Somerset had, in theory, a chance of overhauling a victory target of 337 in a minimum of 82 overs they had, in reality, been on the back foot for the entire game and might consider a draw a more than fair result.

While Durham's captain, Paul Collingwood, admitted he was "a little surprised" when Somerset agreed to shake hands for a draw - they required 91 from the final nine overs and some clean striking from Craig Kieswetter brought a seemingly impossible target just about within reach - the evening was dark and, had Collingwood brought back his seamers, run-scoring would have proved difficult.

While his top-order colleagues prodded around like men lost in a fog, Compton played as if he had a bat the size of a door, as if his forward defensive could keep out flood water and as if the surface was as flat as a road. Despite suffering from a neck injury that necessitated an injection and clearly inhibited his movement, he looked as permanent as Lumley Castle throughout. His chanceless century here was his 11th since the start of the 2012 English domestic season.

Any century made against the champions on their own pitch in April is admirable. But this was not a purely defensive innings. Compton also produced some sparkling driving, off the slightly jaded Graham Onions in particular, and cut and pulled impressively. Quite why England left one of their best players of the short ball out of the tour party to Australia remains a mystery.

As does Compton's status as a somewhat unfashionable player within the England set-up. At 30, he should have several good years ahead of him and, when he was dropped by England last summer, he responded by scoring 1,000 Championship runs in 12 games and, in what amounted to trial games against Australia, made 81 and 79 under pressure. It was all to no avail. The impression remains that England have moved on; that Compton, like Mark Ramprakash before him, can amass runs and break records: the selectors have made their decision.

But to average 93.33 - as Compton does in first-class cricket - against a Durham side containing, in Marcus Trescothick's words "the best bowler in the country in these conditions" is a remarkable achievement. And this was a brave innings, too, coming when Compton was clearly in pain and inhibited by his neck injury and when his team, at 92 for 4, were facing the prospect of defeat. It was played on a pitch of uneven bounce and, while the lavish swing of the second day was absent, a pitch that continued to offer some seam movement.

"To get runs when you're fit is one thing," Trescothick said. "But to do it when your back is against the wall and you're really sore is a really big statement. Nick had to fight to even get on the pitch. It was a brilliant knock. He is a world-class player. But he'll be very sore tonight."

Collingwood agreed. "He played superbly well," he said. "Once he gets in, he's very hard to prise out. He is an international-class batsman and tough to get out. But I'm not the one who makes the [selection] decisions. Obviously they know his character better than me and you have to have the right characters in the right positions in teams and I'm not one to judge on that as I don't know what he's like."

Perhaps, had Scott Borthwick, at second slip, not put down a relatively simple chance offered by Kieswetter on 9 off the unfortunate Onions, Durham would have had been able to force victory. As it was, Kieswetter played an increasingly dominant innings and cut loose in the final hour to help Compton add 154 for the fifth wicket. If Matt Prior is unfit - and his Achilles issue is yet to allow him to keep this season - Kieswetter is among the leaders in the chasing pack looking for a spot as Test wicketkeeper.

Had Collingwood not chosen to bat on in the morning, Durham would have had the chance to unleash another 14 overs and a second new ball. Resuming with his side already boasting a lead of 275, Collingwood left it almost 50 minutes before he declared but could reason that, without Mark Wood or Ben Stokes, his attack was thinner than he would have liked and it was almost a year to the day since Joe Root inspired Yorkshire to a successful run chase of 339 in similar circumstances.

"If the ball doesn't swing, this pitch is slow and flat," he said. "I don't think I could have set less than I did. I didn't want to hand them victory after a three-day game."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on April 25, 2014, 9:21 GMT

    Of the top 3, only Cook's spot is certain. Carberry may or may not be retained as the second opener and Bell may or may not be moved up to #3. Maybe Compton would be a better bet for England at #3 and then either Carberry retains his spot or someone else, e.g. Robson, opens with Cook. The primary criticism of Compton seems to be that he was just too intense. Maybe without the added responsibility of opening, he might loosen up a bit. Mind you, that's probably contingent on whoever does open putting on a few runs more often than not.

  • John on April 24, 2014, 20:40 GMT

    @CS - Re the game - I still think it was a negative declaration and regardless of how the result turned out I reckon I'd have backed Onions and co to do the business. Sure it could have handed Somerset a chance but isn't it worth the risk to get another 11 points? Durham would have had the early morning conditions (not sure if there was any extra movement in the morning as there often is?) and at one point Somerset were 92-4. I still maintain it was a negative mindset when you weigh up the points that could have been gained compared to what they could have lost

    Re Trescothick - It's a difficult one but in a pre season warm up game he scored a ton vs Middlesex who had Finn,Harris and Roland Jones bowling

  • Mark on April 24, 2014, 13:31 GMT

    @Juiceoftheapple He's 38. He last passed 50 in a Championship match 6 matches ago. And when it goes, it goes. Lots of fans want him to go out on a high but, sometimes, a much-loved player does go on for one season too many (Basil D'Oliviera was a classic case).

    If he doesn't start scoring runs in a couple of months, don't be surprised if he retires mid-season.

  • Simon on April 24, 2014, 12:30 GMT

    You cant ditch Tresco after1 season and 2 games, thats just loopy. As for our batting, well Nosworthy has packed us with batters and allrounders and we haven't lost our first two games - YAY!!!!!!!! Now, if the sun comes out, and we start batting first..... lets see if we can start pummeling those northeners round the county ground and pushing for the wins, and hope we have our traditional late summer run. Whose going to be our spinner though? I just hope the obscenity of the dropping of Mr Trego will never not be repeated. Oh, and regarding Kies, he's nailed on Priors successor for me, as his defence is currently so much better than Buttlers.

  • Dummy4 on April 24, 2014, 10:11 GMT

    Anyone who has driven on the Somerset levels will know that roads there are never flat - even before the recent flooding. The underlying peat makes some of them more like a switchback. Perhaps that helped Nick Compton prepare !

  • Mark on April 24, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    @JG2704 True, he hung on for a long time but, had he declared overnight, Somerset might well have won so, in the end, he was probably justified.

  • Dummy4 on April 24, 2014, 8:41 GMT


    Yes he has made some bad decisions as captain but no person is perfect. You must remember the service he has given the club and to do what you suggest to the player after one bad playing season I think is unjust.

    I agree a new captain should be placed but I just wonder if that could help take pressure off tresco. let him just worry about batting for a change might give him I do feel there is possible there hildreth and compo. etc but the ppl you think should be in contention for England places ATM.

    I love tresco and think we should support him. I do agree he makes bad decisions but hey were Somerset who said we would take the easy way?

  • John on April 24, 2014, 8:19 GMT

    I'm surprised Collingwood didn't make a sporting declaration on the overnight score.

    We all know how the weather so often plays a big factor in the title race and the difference in points gained for a draw and a defeat isn't big esp compared to the difference between points gained for a win and a draw. Maybe they were a little put off by Yorks pulling off a win after a declaration last year.

    Kind of pleased that Somerset are showing a bit of steel in batting but I also wonder if it's at the expense of going for wins. It looks a pretty defensive formation to me

  • narbavi on April 24, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    How many more times will he keep reminding them? Will be interesting to see who bats at 3 and 4 now with Trott and KP out of the picture.

  • Matthew on April 23, 2014, 21:50 GMT

    A good fighting effort from Somerset in a game that we would have capitulated in and lost last season. I just hope for the good of himself and the county Trescothick retires, he always been a poor captain but now he is well past it as a batsman and he is embarrassing himself and the club, by hanging on by name and reputation alone.

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