New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Dunedin, 4th day March 9, 2013

Compton makes case for Ashes

One hundred does not make a career, but the one Nick Compton made today means he has the chance to make a career in Test cricket, amid calls for Joe Root to take his place and with the Ashes opener four months away

A first-innings duck. Talk that the 22-year-old at No. 6, playing his second Test, should already be opening the batting. Your team trailing by 293. Put yourself, for a moment, in the mind of Nick Compton as he began his second innings in Dunedin.

No wonder then at the emotion on show when, shortly before the close, he turned Tim Southee through midwicket for a single that could well define his career. "The biggest relief of my life," Compton called it. His father, Richard, who is in New Zealand for the first two Tests of this series, could barely hold back his tears as he cheered his son from the stands.

"It means a huge amount," Compton said. "We've had a few family issues back home and to give to both my parents to take home, it's something I've worked towards for a long time. I'm proud that he's here. It's a great occasion to have him here."

Before this tour Compton said he had dared not dream about the prospect of opening in an Ashes series. With the major milestone of a maiden hundred now in the bag that position is moving ever closer. Four Tests remain until the Ashes opener at Trent Bridge on July 10; only a horrendous loss of form or injury stands in his way.

Compton is an intense cricketer - Alastair Cook said as much earlier in the week - although he says he has found a more even mindset in recent years and attributes a lot of his success to that. Before this match both Cook and Andy Flower endorsed his capabilities as a Test opener, but they would not have been able to do that infinitely.

In India, Compton had shown 'promise', the word often used when the results of a tour are neither one thing nor the other. He had contributed to important partnerships, showed he could lay a base but had failed to kick on past 57. Meanwhile, Joe Root has almost come up on the blindside, first in Test cricket with the 73 off 229 balls on debut in Nagpur then a stellar run in one-day cricket. Already, in just his fifth Test, it felt like make or break was getting very close for Compton.

The nerves were clearly on show. But that was no bad thing. It showed the human side and the sometimes overwhelming desire for success. On 94 he nearly ran himself out going for a single to midwicket. The over before he had called his captain through for a tight run. On 97, he received an unplayable delivery from Southee. Next ball he clipped one to fine leg and sprinted back for a second to reach 99.

"I was holding back the emotions as much as I could. It was one of those where I was itching to have a flap at the spinner before the new ball but obviously there was the bigger picture," he said. "I managed to reign myself in. I got a pretty good ball on 97 and thought 'why didn't you run down back then?' I'm going to cut myself some slack… I thought I handled them pretty well."

It was unfortunate, given the near six hours of hard work they had put in together, that Cook had departed the over earlier. This was the third hundred stand in 10 innings for the Cook-Compton alliance and comfortably the highest. Their final mark of 231 was a new record for England against New Zealand for the first wicket, overtaking the 223 of Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare from 1983.

It is not a partnership to set the pulses racing, but why should that be a problem? It is true that we are yet to see whether Compton has a second gear in Tests - Cook certainly does - but so far he has played ideally to the situation. "It would be nice if I could whack a few, run-a-ball would be nice but I tend to try to make it difficult for myself," he said. He also tells a story of when he was younger playing cricket in the backyard and his grandfather Denis, sat with a glass of something, saying 'just hit the bloody ball'. But that style of game comes more natural to some than others.

In India the priority was to grind down the hosts, something that started in the second innings in Ahmedabad when this pair added 123. Due to the feeble performance of the first innings this match became a match-saving mission for England so, again, Compton did exactly what the team needed. Bat time. It is what he specialises in for Somerset and the skill that earned him a crack at Test cricket.

"When I look back at my county career, perhaps I've got a reputation for trying to dig in and really trying to fight," he said. "That's just the way and I probably get a lot more satisfaction out of that. It means a lot more when you really have to fight and work hard for something."

Compton's whole career has been hard work. From coping with such a famous family name to moving counties to taking himself overseas during winters to work, sometimes obsessively, on his game. Those experiences, plus his years on the domestic scene, will have helped him cope with the stress of this innings.

"To get to this moment was something special. I never though perhaps a year ago, or a couple of months ago, that I'd be sitting here with a hundred," he said. "I kept believing, but it's been a long time. I'm just delighted. It's a strange feeling."

One hundred does not make a career, but the one Compton made today means he has the chance to make a career in Test cricket.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Samuel on March 10, 2013, 17:53 GMT

    @liz - completely the opposite. Technically, Compton is arguably much more orthodox & solid than a lot of the players he's batting with; Cook, Trott & KP don't exactly have techniques you'd tell a young batsman to model themselves on! Not to say any of them have bad techniques either, but Compton is solid technically; he either goes right back on his stumps when playing off the back foot or gets a good long stride in going forward & plays close to his body. He needs to open up his stance to the left arm over bowlers a bit more, but Flower will have him working on that. Hopefully this 100 will let him relax a bit and free himself up once he's got past 50 a bit more - he times the ball nicely, hits it cleanly (he has a domestic 40 over strike rate of over 80) and is much more comfortable hitting over the top and using his feet to the spinners than Cook or Trott are. He is a complete player, he just chooses to minimise all risk in order to bat long.

  • John on March 10, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    @Simon Timothy on (March 10, 2013, 4:11 GMT), He was one of three men in the game to make a hundred and one of those was dropped twice, one of which was a sitter. We have every right to be well pleased by Compton's innings.

  • Sean on March 10, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    Great stuff from Compton. It must really annoy australia that England are able to bring in new players who hit the ground running while they are forced to use T20 batsmen in test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on March 10, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    lets not get carried away it was a FLAT track against poor bowling

  • j on March 9, 2013, 23:43 GMT

    England already have the best test opener in the world and now in Compton they have the second best test opener too. Ominous signs for Australia ahead of the historic B2B Ashes series.

  • Andrew on March 9, 2013, 20:55 GMT

    I watched all of Compton's innings and was super impressed - not in response to the so called 'pressure' he was under - but because of his flawless technique. I'm struggling to see what @liz1558 is referring to, especially when you consider the way he looked so comfortable using his feet in India before Christmas. Love the post of @Landl47 -it says it all really and with a record like that, Flower was never going to have anyone other than Compton partnering Cook here. Not surprisingly, another monster partnership followed!

  • Dummy4 on March 9, 2013, 19:41 GMT

    I think age is irrelevant these days to be honest. Gilchrist made his test debut when he was 28 or 29 and he played 96 Tests - the only reason he stopped was because he chose to stop - he could have gone on for over a 100 Tests. Hussey is the same, he made his Test debut when he was 30 and played in over 75 Test. again, he stopped because he chose to. The way the rest of the team are playing now, Hussey could have easily played 4 Tests in india plus the 10 Ashes test and over 10 test the following year, he could have easily played over 100 Tests.

    So age is really not important if you have the skills, desire, form, etc.

  • Mark on March 9, 2013, 19:29 GMT

    @Andy Plowright I hear you and recall the comment but that was another England and different times when expectations were miserably low (remember how, within minutes of Michael Vaughan's debut, England were 2-4?) Having followed his career for years I think that he can come good big time but, in India, he was a Shane Watson type: the perfect guy to come in and score 30 or 40 time after time after time, but not the one to change the match with a big score. Nick Compton is capable of scoring regular big centuries, but he needs to show himself that he can do it first.

  • Dummy4 on March 9, 2013, 18:44 GMT

    In the first England innings commentary just after his duck, you'll see my remark published that Compton had still got a better average in his first few innings than Michael Vaughan did after the same number of knocks. The people who wanted Compton demoted already should be shamed for their tabloid-style knee-jerk nonsense.

    Compton's position is secure. Root is fine at 6. Our entire top six look settled, the absolute opposite to the current Australia top 6. What's more, we have others who could come in as able replacements. Bairstow, Bopara maybe, Varun Chopra, James Taylor... it's a very positive situation. We have cover for Prior in the form of Bairstow. Really the queries are over the bowlers. I have a feeling that someone is going to come through in the county bowling ranks and make their debut in an Ashes Test.

  • Mark on March 9, 2013, 18:28 GMT

    @landl I think that you are right to a large degree. England turned the series around in India thanks in no small measure to getting solid starts. When you know that your openers will put on at least 50 and there is a good chance that it will be 100+ the whole batting order feels more confidence, rather than being in a state of nervousness that it will be 27-2 and a crisis... again. In that sense you are absolutely right. However, with a top score of 57, he showed an ability to occupy the crease without ever making the big contribution that his side hoped for. It is always nice to have an opener who will not just blunt the bowling, but also go on to make big scores. Tonight is just as critical for Nick Compton as yesterday was: kick on, get a daddy hundred, or lose your wicket early and see England 3-down and still around 50 behind (I am assuming that Steve Finn is not planning to stick around long); if it's the latter you will feel that, as in India, he never quite finished the job.

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