Warwickshire v Somerset, Edgbaston, 1st day May 25, 2014

Compton demonstrates old-fashioned values

Somerset 237 for 3 (Compton 72*, Hildreth 72*, Trescothick 53) v Warwickshire

As England hurtled to defeat in two-and-a-half days in Sydney, the much-repeated mantra was that they had to find a way to be more positive. They had to find a way to disrupt the Australian bowlers, the Australian plans and the Australian media, who had goaded them into abandoning their natural method of attritional progress.

It was all nonsense. Like driving faster in fog to arrive home more quickly, there are times - many times in Test cricket - when the best tactic remains occupation of the crease. When bowlers can be worn down by being forced into fifth, sixth and seventh spells. When batting long is far preferable to batting attractively for an hour. When blocking for over upon over is exactly what is required.

These are old fashioned qualities and, in the era of T20, they are unfashionable qualities, too. But in the world of first-class cricket, patience, discipline and denial will often remain more valuable than flair and aggression and bravado. After all, it was hardly as if England's biggest problem in Australia was running out of time with victory tantalisingly in their grasp. They have been involved in very few draws where the rain has not intervened in the past five years.

So it was refreshing to see Nick Compton's batting on the first day of this match at Edgbaston. Compton, something of the forgotten man of English cricket, compiled a patient half-century that built his team an excellent foundation in this match and provided a reminder of his skills that, but for the selectors' intransigence, just might have helped England retain the Ashes in the winter. Sadly, it appears Compton, for reasons that are not easy to understand, is not one of the ECB's "sort of people".

His half-century here occupied 156 balls and took more than three-and-a-quarter hours. But, against a demanding attack and on a pitch on which his side had been inserted, it helped Somerset build a strong position. His stand with James Hildreth, an elegant partner, is already worth 132 runs for Somerset's fourth wicket.

There were some lovely shots. An off drive of Keith Barker, a couple of pulls off Boyd Rankin and Chris Wright and a lofted boundary off Jeetan Patel all demonstrated a decent array of strokes. It is just that Compton utilises them judiciously.

But this was an innings characterised by his defence, his patience and his technique. No-one in English cricket can leave balls with such certainty just outside off stump and on-one in English cricket can match the concentration and hunger that, since March 2012, have seen him amass 3725 runs in 80 innings at an average in excess of 55.

It is true that his first boundary did not come until he had faced 43 deliveries. And it is true that, after 100 balls, he had scored only 22. But he picked up the rate as the bowlers tired and resumes on day two with power to add. It might be enough to give Warwickshire's bowlers nightmares.

At least they can take comfort from the fact that Marcus Trescothick has been dismissed. After two centuries and a half-century in three of his four previous Championship innings, Trescothick looked well set for a further large contribution here. He pulled Rankin for a six, drove Patel for another and played a delightful late-cut in reaching another 50 but, no sooner had Rikki Clarke altered his line of attack and gone around the wicket, Trescothick lost his off stump to a straight ball that he simply missed. Johann Myburg edged one angled across him and Alviro Petersen was caught as mid-on as he tried to hit over the top.

But Compton and Hildreth, increasingly fluent as the day wore on, were not to be parted. Hildreth struck two sixes, a pull off Chris Wright and a drive of Patel, and as the bowlers tired towards the end of two long sessions in the field - overnight rain prevented any play until 1.30pm - took 62 off the final 14 overs.

Rankin, playing his first first-class game since his chastening Test debut in Sydney, bowled with excellent pace and rhythm on a slow pitch, while Patel gained enough turn to demand respect all day, but Warwickshire will have been hoping to make far greater inroads after inserting the visitors on a pitch that had been under cover for several days. Somerset confirmed that they, too, would have bowled first.

The Warwickshire battling line-up is weakened. With Ian Bell and Chris Woakes absent on England duty - or in Woakes' case, as is often the way, on England drinks duty - Jonathan Trott expected to be absent for a few weeks yet and Laurie Evans dropped after losing form and confidence, there is a fragility about the middle-order. The need for Tim Ambrose to leave the pitch in the final session with a calf strain will have done nothing to boost confidence in the home dressing room.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ben on May 26, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    Compton will join the list of luminaries which includes the likes of Trevor Jesty and David Fulton as players who would very probably have made an invaluable contribution to England's cause but for the extraordinary incompetence of the Test selectors of their day. When the best batsman, ( Compton ), and bowler, ( Onions ), were omitted, it was almost a satisfaction to see Australia hand out the thrashing they did. How anyone can compare Nick Compton to Mark Ramprakash is beyond me. Ramprakash, a la Derek Randall, David Gower, Graeme Hick and Alec Stewart, was selected half to death before being deemed a failure. Considering his temperament, technique and ability, Compton seems barely to have been given five minutes. He is the best thing since Graham Thorpe, and you can't say much better than that.

  • George on May 26, 2014, 8:38 GMT

    Somerset rarely get such flattering press but when we do, it's never a good sign.

  • Dummy4 on May 25, 2014, 22:29 GMT

    Well, another day and another good day for the Set. With the batting to come and the game plan Somerset have I hope we can push 450. Probably wont get full batting points due to the slow scoring, but that is fine if we win. Warks batting has been suspect this year so hopefully an in form Thomas and Overall (plus the other one) will do them cheaply. Only concern is the weather. Although he didn't get a ton, it is so good to have Tres back in form: An inform Tres = an inform Somerset. Long live the king! Who would have had Somerset as second and unbeaten at this stage of the season. If we can get two full games each against Northants and Lancs we could be in serious business. So nice to have the pressure of this season and low and behold we do well. Also, so good to see Hildy getting a score. Such a wasted talent. I really hope he has an Indian summer to his career

  • John on May 25, 2014, 21:33 GMT

    Seems a fairly decent base to build on after being put into bat. Not sure how the weather is set. Also nice to see Tres score another 50. Probably a shame for Somerset that the day ended when it did as Hildreth looked to be in touch and he is a momentum player

  • Chris on May 25, 2014, 21:17 GMT

    Good day for Somerset and a good day for Compton who has not yet amassed the amount of runs needed to make his selection for the first test a certainty or even a distinct probability. But agree with George Dobell, Compton has the qualities, technique and patience required to make him a natural test opener. Although I'm not sure he merits the tag "forgotten man of English cricket", (give it time!) It's perhaps more apposite to give that unfortunate title to his batting partner today, James Hildreth. Ex Captain of the English Lions, a sublime stroke maker once regularly tipped for a spot in England's middle order. It perhaps looks like a player has his time, his chance and unless snatched it passes, never to reappear. A lack of big runs over the last two seasons will, it seems, mean that Hlidreth will also earn another unwanted sobriquet: the best modern batsman never to have played for England. Lets hope, though, that Compton's time hasn't passed quite yet. England need him.

  • Tim on May 25, 2014, 20:43 GMT

    Good to see Compton and Hildreth doing well for Somerset today. The whole England selection process continues to be a complete mystery. As far as I can see Nick was picked for the attributes of patience and building an innings, that you outline in your report; these were seen as missing from the England team. Good tour of New Zealand and then judged to be not good enough after the home tests against NZ seemed very harsh. Others seem to have many more chances.

    England also treated Hildreth curiously, stylish batsman, captain of the Lions supposedly close to the England team and then discarded. Ok so his form may have dipped at just the wrong time but this doesn't seem an issue for other players. He must look at James Taylor, both excellent batsmen who also are decent captains, and now seems further away from the Test team and see a few echoes.

    Here's hoping for strong seasons for both and who knows? Today's debacle suggests England's batting is a long way from being sorted!

  • Dummy4 on May 25, 2014, 20:08 GMT

    am secretly rather happy that Somerset's players keep getting ignored by the selectors.. silly them and lucky us.

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