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Alastair Cook fell early, but the job he so often does for England was performed ably by Jonathan Trott and Nick Compton
March 14, 2013
The road surface on the proposed flyover next to the Basin Reserve, which is causing much consternation among those worried about its impact on the ground, will not be much flatter than the 22 yards in the middle were made to look by Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott.
You could not have found a more polar opposite performance to the first innings in Dunedin, where England donated wickets as though making a delivery to a charity shop. Amends were made in the second innings and that head-down, don't-give-it-away, attitude was transferred to Wellington.
England's top three embody that philosophy to batting. They are all renowned for substance over style. Alastair Cook's dismissal was a shock because he does not chip catches to mid-on in a Test match, but any concern that the captain's early departure would destabilise the top order was widely misplaced.
That will have satisfied Andy Flower immensely because after Dunedin, he said some other members of the top order had to take the lead, rather than leaving it to Cook to repeatedly set the tone. There was a sense of inevitably about Trott's hundred, but at the other end there was the continued evolution of a batsman who has a similarly single-minded approach, if without quite the same compulsive mannerisms.
When Compton walked to the crease, he was a batsman with a Test hundred to his name and it showed. He did not suddenly become a dashing, thrilling strokemaker - at one stage during the afternoon it took him 77 balls to add 14 - but there was an ease at the crease created by the confidence of his achievement in Dunedin.
There were two pulls during the opening session that had an air of authority about them and a cover drive that purred off the bat. When his tempo slowed during the middle session Compton did not fret; he had been there many times in his first-class career. A fierce square drive behind point, with a flourishing follow through, took him to 96 and an even better shot, a rasping cover drive, brought up the hundred which sparked more emotional celebrations. This time there was a greater sense of enjoyment rather than relief.
Trott, though, did not sense any sudden change in Compton's approach. "You can never go into a Test match relaxed, you are always quite nervous especially at the start of your career," he said. "You don't want to take things for granted. But I certainly think he will take a lot of confidence out of it, knowing he can score runs at this level, because you are never really quite sure until you score your first hundred. Maybe he felt more confident, don't think it's a case of being relaxed."
It took Trott 12 innings to double his hundred tally following his debut ton against Australia at The Oval. Back-to-back hundreds, regardless of conditions, are a considerable feat of concentration and refocusing. A cautionary note, though. The previous player to follow his debut ton with another in the next innings was Ravi Bopara in 2009. Nothing is ever guaranteed for the future.
At times in the County Championship last season, Compton will have faced tougher conditions than the Basin provided. New Zealand's bowlers, whose thoughts about Brendon McCullum's decision to bowl may have become more unprintable as the day progressed, were honest but limited. With an in-form top order themselves, especially after Hamish Rutherford's debut performance, it should really have been them batting. Without the encouragement of at least semi-regular breakthroughs, those 170 overs in the field four days ago will have been felt in the legs.
It was the opposite effect for Compton, whose energies will have risen as New Zealand's dipped. After Compton's maiden hundred, Cook was asked whether it will help relax his opening partner - renowned for an intense approach to the game - and Cook's reply was telling. He said he hoped it wouldn't, that the intensity to Compton's game was what drove his hunger to succeed.
"That is the art in cricket, finding the balance between intensity of wanting it too much or being a bit too relaxed," Trott said. "I think his balance at the moment is really good. He has a good work ethic so he fits right into this team."
The only occasions Compton was made slightly uncomfortable was during a testing spell by Tim Southee, who almost found the glove with a brace of well-directed bouncers over leg stump. When the short deliveries were around chest height, Compton had few concerns, but the hook did not seem such a natural stroke as the pull and fast bowlers around the world are unlikely to be slow to test him. In a mark of the innings, though, two balls after being beaten for the second time he stood tall and drove a boundary square.
Maybe Compton was not intense enough after reaching the hundred because he drove loosely to edge Bruce Martin to slip. International sport does not allow someone to be content with success for too long. There was the opportunity for something even more substantial if he had managed to start his innings again.
After driving the last ball of the day for two, Trott, as he always does, remarked his guard before walking off. New Zealand managed to dislodge one century-maker, but there is another with his eye on plenty more runs. "As a batsman you have never scored enough, you never think you've done the job," he said. Compton may just be pondering that thought, too.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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