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George Dobell in Kolkata
December 6, 2012
Nick Compton was happy to play a supporting role as Alastair Cook continued his remarkable from in the Test series against India. Compton, the 29-year-old playing his third Test, scored his maiden half-century at this level in helping Cook, who finished the day unbeaten on 136, post an opening partnership of 165 on the second day of the third Test in Kolkata.
It was Cook's 23rd Test century and his third in successive Tests this series. Not only did that make him the leading century maker for England in their Test history but it also made him the youngest man from any country to pass the milestone of 7,000 Test runs.
Afterwards Compton spoke in something approaching awe of his captain's performance. "Standing out there today, looking up at the board and seeing those stats: 7,000 runs, the youngest player to do that; it was quite an amazing moment," Compton said. "I thought 'I'm batting with this guy; he's just got another hundred, and he's the all-time leading English hundred-maker.' It speaks volumes that he's been able to do that from a young age. A lot of players only find their feet at perhaps my age, 28 or 29, but he did it a long time before. And he is still is a young player."
Compton compared the experience of batting with Cook to batting with Marcus Trescothick, his team-mate and captain at Somerset. "To bat with him is quite similar, in some ways, to batting with Trescothick," Compton said. "It's how clinical they are with every delivery. They make very few mistakes and every ball is played in a similar fashion.
"It's the mark of a serious player that he does the simple things very, very well and for a long period of time and that's been very clear batting at the other end. Not a lot is said; he's very clear in his gameplan.
"He gives the other players a lot of confidence out there, because he's so solid. He's very unflappable, not a lot of airs and graces, and just gets on and does it. It makes a big difference to have someone who's so chilled out at the other end."
Compton admitted he was disappointed with the manner of his dismissal for 57 - given out lbw when replays suggest the ball hit the glove - but accepted that it would have been a tough decision for the umpire.
"It hit my glove" he said. "It's one of those things and a bit disappointing. But from the umpire's position, it was obviously a very difficult decision. That's the way it goes.
"As a team we are very satisfied. We spoke about developing partnerships and we managed that quite well. It's a good way to grind them down. The longer you spend out there the easier it gets."
The relative comfort with which Compton has taken to Test cricket - he averages over 40 after five innings at this level - might be used as a ringing endorsement of the county game. After all, he has played little England Lions cricket, little cricket abroad and owes his selection purely to the mountain of runs he has scored for Somerset over the last couple of years. The fact that he has not looked unduly troubled suggests the step-up between county and Test is not so large as is sometimes suggested.
The truth is not quite so straightforward. Compton actually felt the need to hire himself a private coach and mentor, the former county wicketkeeper Neil Burns, to help him develop and refine his character and his game. Tellingly, Monty Panesar also credits his relationship with Burns for kick-starting his career. The fact that both men had to venture outside the county system should raise a few questions.
Compton may well be a less limited player than he has shown to date. There was a time when he tried, like so many of his generation, to emulate Kevin Pietersen. But that was never his greatest strength. Having reasoned that, aged 29, he is only going to have one shot at a career in international cricket, he has reined in his attacking instincts and adopted a largely risk-free approach to batting. The big scores may not have come just yet, but he has provided England with a decent platform in four out of his five innings. Indeed, Cook and Compton here recorded their fourth successive partnership of 50 or more; the first England pair of openers to do so since Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick in 2002.
"I'm really chuffed," he said. "It would be nice to have gone on, of course. But if you'd told me I'd get my maiden 50 today, I would have taken it - no doubt.
"I'm somebody who does try to spend a lot of time out there. Starting my Test career, I wanted to give myself the best opportunity and I feel like I've done that, in patches, but I haven't managed to go on and get a big score.
"I've probably missed out again, but I'm happy to get that first 50. Alastair was obviously the dominant partner, but with each milestone that came up - and seeing their bowlers ground down. It gave me a lot of confidence."
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