Middlesex 297-8 (Compton 87, Simpson 64, Wheal 3-83) lead Hampshire 176 by 122 runs
Two years ago Nick Compton was dropped for the Ashes, only three games after he had made centuries in back-to-back Tests. The implication seemed clear: to the selectors, Compton did not fulfil their mind's eye of what an England batsman looked like. Many thought his treatment shabby.
Only industrial quantities of runs could persuade the selectors, with whom Compton has had "no dialogue", to think again. While often exuding permanence at the crease, Compton has not quite managed them. He averaged 43.08 in what proved his last season at Somerset; so far his return to Middlesex has brought just one hundred.
Hence Compton's chagrin after his dismissal for a typically well-compiled 87: he held out his arm as if he could not believe that his edge from Danny Briggs had reached first slip on the full.
"I just thought how on earth has it gone from there to there? It was more dismay really and disappointment," he reflected.
While he still bats in the assiduous style that has made him one of county cricket's most prized wickets in the last five years, Compton is a man short of time in one sense. Three days after his 32nd birthday, he needs to embarrass the selectors into a rethink, something that even Mark Ramprakash was unable to do when he averaged 100 in consecutive summers. It is a task that calls for more than substantive innings of two figures.
"Obviously I would have liked a big hundred. I think I've got ten scores between 80 and 100 in the last two years which hurts you a little bit when you're trying to push for higher honours, realising that people don't watch the innings. All they look at is a scoreboard and if you've got a hundred it seems to make them take notice. It's quite hard to take because you feel you've worked your balls off for that and to fall so close to the landmark is not great."
It has been a familiar feeling recently: as he noted, Compton has a pair of 70s to go with this 87 since recording a century four games ago. "If I'd just batted a bit longer and with a bit more composure I'd have got four hundreds on the bounce. Now talk to me.
"Unfortunately that's the world we live in. It would be nice if the selectors and everyone was watching ball-by-ball and seeing some of the qualities even if it wasn't a hundred but that's just the way it is. And that's why it hurts more."
For all his personal frustration, Compton's innings has been the most influential of the first two days at Lord's. It has established Middlesex with a lead of 122 with two first innings wickets still intact: though not necessarily decisive, it has put Hampshire's batting under an unflattering light. In isolation taking eight wickets for 239 made this a commendable day's work for Hampshire, even if the sight of James Vince and Will Smith sharing 16 overs suggests their attack is missing an allrounder.
That Middlesex would still be batting at the close seemed unlikely when Hampshire took five wickets for 53 runs before lunch. While there was nothing surprising about the parsimony and movement generated by Jackson Bird and Gareth Berg, the performance of Bradley Wheal was notable. An 18-year-old lured from Cape Town by Dale Benkenstein, Wheal bowled with oomph in his third first-class game. As his mother hails from Scotland, the Saltires might soon be minded to ask about his international availability.
In three balls Wheal snared two Test batsmen. Extra pace compelled Joe Burns to inside edge a delivery onto his middle stump. And then Eoin Morgan, seeking to translate the swagger of the recent ODI series to the first-class game, was enticed to flash his second ball to the slips while his feet lay unmoved.
The day was no better for the other Middlesex batsmen with recent England Test experience: resuming on 17, Sam Robson was trapped in front by Bell's incisive spell before adding a run. A year ago he was playing Test cricket for England; now he has made only one score over 50 in 16 first-class innings this season. Admittedly that was a hefty 178 against Durham: exactly the sort of score Compton is imploring himself to make.
Hampshire vs Middlesex
LV= County Championship Division One
England Domestic Season
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts