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Compton sends England a reminder

Somerset 185 (Trego 48, Rushworth 4-52, Onions 4-65) and 246 for 4 (Compton 100*, Kieswetter 78*) drew with Durham 308 (Jennings 80, Gregory 4-59) and 213 for 9 dec (Collingwood 52*, Gregory 4-91)
Scorecard

The last time that England made 400 in a Test, Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott scored centuries. Kevin Pietersen made 73, too.

So it is surprising that, with Trott and Pietersen now seemingly out of the picture, and England having failed to reach 400 since March 2013 - 13 Tests and 26 innings ago - that they seem to feel that they can do without Compton.

Compton, the most prolific run-scorer in the Championship over the last couple of years, provided another reminder of his abilities as he helped his Somerset side secure a draw on the final day of their game at Durham. Though Somerset had, in theory, a chance of overhauling a victory target of 337 in a minimum of 82 overs they had, in reality, been on the back foot for the entire game and might consider a draw a more than fair result.

While Durham's captain, Paul Collingwood, admitted he was "a little surprised" when Somerset agreed to shake hands for a draw - they required 91 from the final nine overs and some clean striking from Craig Kieswetter brought a seemingly impossible target just about within reach - the evening was dark and, had Collingwood brought back his seamers, run-scoring would have proved difficult.

While his top-order colleagues prodded around like men lost in a fog, Compton played as if he had a bat the size of a door, as if his forward defensive could keep out flood water and as if the surface was as flat as a road. Despite suffering from a neck injury that necessitated an injection and clearly inhibited his movement, he looked as permanent as Lumley Castle throughout. His chanceless century here was his 11th since the start of the 2012 English domestic season.

Any century made against the champions on their own pitch in April is admirable. But this was not a purely defensive innings. Compton also produced some sparkling driving, off the slightly jaded Graham Onions in particular, and cut and pulled impressively. Quite why England left one of their best players of the short ball out of the tour party to Australia remains a mystery.

As does Compton's status as a somewhat unfashionable player within the England set-up. At 30, he should have several good years ahead of him and, when he was dropped by England last summer, he responded by scoring 1,000 Championship runs in 12 games and, in what amounted to trial games against Australia, made 81 and 79 under pressure. It was all to no avail. The impression remains that England have moved on; that Compton, like Mark Ramprakash before him, can amass runs and break records: the selectors have made their decision.

But to average 93.33 - as Compton does in first-class cricket - against a Durham side containing, in Marcus Trescothick's words "the best bowler in the country in these conditions" is a remarkable achievement. And this was a brave innings, too, coming when Compton was clearly in pain and inhibited by his neck injury and when his team, at 92 for 4, were facing the prospect of defeat. It was played on a pitch of uneven bounce and, while the lavish swing of the second day was absent, a pitch that continued to offer some seam movement.

"To get runs when you're fit is one thing," Trescothick said. "But to do it when your back is against the wall and you're really sore is a really big statement. Nick had to fight to even get on the pitch. It was a brilliant knock. He is a world-class player. But he'll be very sore tonight."

Collingwood agreed. "He played superbly well," he said. "Once he gets in, he's very hard to prise out. He is an international-class batsman and tough to get out. But I'm not the one who makes the [selection] decisions. Obviously they know his character better than me and you have to have the right characters in the right positions in teams and I'm not one to judge on that as I don't know what he's like."

Perhaps, had Scott Borthwick, at second slip, not put down a relatively simple chance offered by Kieswetter on 9 off the unfortunate Onions, Durham would have had been able to force victory. As it was, Kieswetter played an increasingly dominant innings and cut loose in the final hour to help Compton add 154 for the fifth wicket. If Matt Prior is unfit - and his Achilles issue is yet to allow him to keep this season - Kieswetter is among the leaders in the chasing pack looking for a spot as Test wicketkeeper.

Had Collingwood not chosen to bat on in the morning, Durham would have had the chance to unleash another 14 overs and a second new ball. Resuming with his side already boasting a lead of 275, Collingwood left it almost 50 minutes before he declared but could reason that, without Mark Wood or Ben Stokes, his attack was thinner than he would have liked and it was almost a year to the day since Joe Root inspired Yorkshire to a successful run chase of 339 in similar circumstances.

"If the ball doesn't swing, this pitch is slow and flat," he said. "I don't think I could have set less than I did. I didn't want to hand them victory after a three-day game."

  • Compton sends England a reminder

    Nick Compton provided another reminder of his abilities as he helped his Somerset side secure a draw on the final day of their game at Durham

  • Onions makes his well rehearsed case

    Graham Onions provided another reminded of his skills to help Durham take charge against Somerset, but will the watching selector, James Whitaker, take any notice?

  • Jennings' patience trumps Overton's pace

    While the pace of Jamie Overton caught the eye, it was the patience and denial of Keaton Jennings that gave Durham the advantage over Somerset.