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Nick Compton likely to open Test batting for England

Tuesday, 6 November 2012 - 6:43pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Compton edges ahead of Root in the race to open Test batting. Unbeaten 64 in tame draw against Mumbai A puts Somerset batsmen in pole position to partner Cook.

If runs are the currency that counts, as opposed to how they are made, then Nick Compton has emerged as England's most likely opener alongside Alastair Cook for the first Test against India next week.

Compton made an unbeaten 64 from 162 balls in the second innings of England's draw against Mumbai A, as compared to his rival Joe Root's 24, but it was a laboured knock as the home side tried to give the visitors as little significant practice as possible by bowling wide of the stumps.

At one stage he and Jonathan Trott, like doppelgangers when viewed from the distant press box here in the DY Patil Stadium, barely achieved forward momentum, the seven overs immediately after Root's dismissal yielding just 10 runs as Mumbai A's seamers sent the ball down two feet outside off stump to a packed off-side field.

On a slow pitch taking turn, it was cynical cricket, though batsmen less hamstrung than Compton, by what was at stake, would surely have taken a risk or two to assert themselves. This was not the West Indies circa 1985, but there was an important Test place up for grabs, a challenge that seemed to intimidate rather than inspire its two contestants.

England have been well served by opening batsmen over the past 20 years with Cook and Andrew Strauss the most fecund ever for their country. Following that is an enormous task and perhaps that took its toll in this match, for in truth, neither Root nor Compton made a persuasive case other than for grim occupation of the crease, and that is no way to begin a Test series you are seeking to win.

Yesterday, Root looked the less tense when the pair came to the crease 20 minutes before lunch after Monty Panesar and Samit Patel had mopped up Mumbai A's innings with three wickets apiece. He was also the more fluent, leg-glancing a four off seamer Javed Khan and then guiding the bowler's next ball deftly to third man for another. He outscored Compton almost two to one until naivety got the better of him and he was lbw padding up to Shardul Thakur, who having swung the first five balls of his over away from Root cleverly slanted the last one in.

It was the kind of three-card trick bowlers love to inflict on batsmen if they can and while none are immune, a 21 year-old is more likely to fall for it. England's choice, given Cook has already ruled out a move up the order by Trott, is between youthful vigour and bloody-minded experience. Five-day Tests are long games but a top three of Cook, Compton and Trott on these sluggish surfaces may yet cure insomnia.

"I definitely needed that," said Compton afterwards. "It's not been the ideal start but I just think you need to give yourself a bit of time. It's a new country and a new team.

"The most important thing was to spend time in the middle. The more balls I can face in these conditions then the better it will be for the future. I think you need a foundation to build on and three hours in the middle today has given me something."

Compton's appearance in the first tour game with Cook suggested that England had placed him at the head of the pecking order but this match pitted them head-on, a situation you do not often get these days given that the eleven is usually settled and most of the other squad members are there to back you up not battle with you.

"I'd be lying if I didn't have an eye on that opening spot and I took a bit of confidence from getting the nod in the first game, that's why I was disappointed not to take that initial chance," said Compton. "But as soon as you think about who is playing and who isn't, you're taking your eye off the ball. I've done that before so it was good to kick on in this match and get a score I desperately needed."

Compton's relief was almost matched by Stuart Broad and Ian Bell - Broad because the scan on his heel showed it was just bruised instead of something more debilitating and Bell because he managed to get to double figures for the first time on tour, though he was dropped first ball.

Broad's problem prevented him from bowling but not from fielding, so it cannot be too serious. Bruised heels are a way of life for fast bowlers. Some cope and keep bowling, others cannot because the discomfort niggles away and distracts them.

If he does play in the opening match of the series he is likely to meet his old nemesis, Yuvraj Singh, who struck him for six sixes in an over during the 2007 World Twenty20 in South Africa. Yuvraj has been included in India's 15-man squad for the first two Tests after a 12-month hiatus in which he battled a rare cancer.

Yuvraj is joined by Harbhajan Singh, another out of favour recently, but recalled here to give India options in their spin department against an England side who have been deliberately deprived of facing any high quality tweakers in their warm-up matches.
 


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