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
Scorecard

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

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