Monday, 27 May 2013

Making the case for Compton

So despite winning the first test by a canter and being miles ahead in the second, the English cricketing press would have you believe that Alastair Cook's brave boys are on the verge of meltdown. The bowling fab four of Anderson, Broad, Swann and Finn are all in the wickets, so they're safe. Cook's captaincy seems to be going well, so he's off the hook. Prior, Trott and Bell haven't done a great deal wrong recently, so they're free to go. The columns detailing Joe Root's ascent to the role of Saviour Of English Cricket look far too positive, which means somebody has to shoulder the blame for the inevitable wheels falling off. That poor bastard is Nick Compton, who despite a steady start to his test career is already "facing the chopping block", "staring down the barrel" or even a "dead man walking". Which all seems a little harsh and unnecessary.

Nick Compton is playing in his 9th test match. In that time he's been part of an England team that won a generation-defining series away in India, and scored back to back hundreds - two things plenty of players don't achieve in 90 test matches. In that time Compton's forged a decent understanding with Alastair Cook, making six partnerships over 50, with three of those being converted into hundred run stands, and a top partnership of 231. Compton has bought a stability and maturity to the top of the order born of over 100 county games for Middlesex and Somerset where he's proven that he's willing to work hard for his runs and not throw his wicket away. His promotion to test cricket came where England were at a crossroads at the top of the order after Andrew Strauss' retirement, and he's let nobody down. And while he made two hundreds away in New Zealand in a series where English batsmen otherwise struggled, four failures in the home series has apparently put his position in jeopardy.

Jonny Bairstow is currently in the England team due to an injury to Kevin Pietersen. Jonny Bairstow has played one fewer test than Compton, and has made two fewer hundreds. Going into this match he also averaged 10 runs fewer per innings. Bairstow (23 years old compared to Compton's nearly 30) has played 40 fewer first class games than Compton. The word on the street is for Bairstow to keep his spot in the team once Pietersen returns, with Compton being the man to miss out to make way for The Reintegrated One. Has there been anything in Bairstow's test career to suggest that he's more likely to make runs than Nick Compton? I'm not sure.

I don't want to take anything away from Jonny Bairstow as he will undoubtedly score thousands of test runs for England, but Nick Compton is someone who knows their game inside out and has been piling on runs for a long time - Bairstow is still attempting to get to grips with his, as the amount of times he's been dismissed hooking for Yorkshire this season have proved. Dropping Compton to keep Bairstow strikes me as bizarre - especially considering the upheaval that doing so would cause. Getting Compton straight outta there would mean Root would have to move up to open - admittedly something he's done throughout his career for Yorkshire, but something he'd have no experience with in an England shirt, and the first Ashes test is one hell of a place to find out whether someone can sink or swim. Besides, knee-jerk decisions and uncertainty didn't get England to the number one spot in the world (even if they did knock them off again) and it doesn't seem like Andy Flower or England's way to change for changes sake.

While an Ashes summer always brings some level of media hoopla, England will do well to ignore the armchair selectors (the irony of me writing this while sitting in an armchair is not lost on me) who want the next man to finally be the one who faces the chop. There's a lot going right about this England team at the minute, and while Nick Compton has struggled for form this series, he should very much be seen as a big part of the team who hope to go and win back to back Ashes in the next six months. It is very much the way of the world that no matter how well the team are going, someone has to be supposedly in the firing line, and the best thing team England can do is to back Compton to come good and make runs, which he's more than good enough to do. While speculation about who takes to the field on July 10th at Trent Bridge will continue until the teamsheets are in, I'm confident that the selectors and the powers that be will do the right thing and keep hold of Compo. Besides, the last English opener who was certain to be dropped before an Ashes series didn't do too badly, did he?

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