England in New Zealand: Alastair Cook and Nick Compton loving their honeymoon period
England pair believe early signs are good for a long and happy opening relationship
There they already sit in 18th place, moving up quicker than a smash hit single on Pick of the Pops. Since 331 different pairs have opened the batting for England, it is quite something what Alastair Cook and Nick Compton have already achieved.
In six matches and 11 innings as England's first-wicket partnership, they have put on 755 runs together at an average of 75.5. Of those to have strode out together in any more than three Tests, only Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe have been more prolific and they are imperishable.
It might just be then that the new partnership is here to stay. When Compton was selected at the start of this winter he was taking over from Andrew Strauss as Cook's opening partner. Strauss and Cook had been together for six years and 68 matches, they knew each other's batting intimately, when to run and when to stay, when to block and when to trot, which one was in form and which out of it.
Compton is the new man in Cook's life. Long-standing opening partners become almost like an old married couple. There are highs and lows but by and large they rub along together, they are aware of likes and dislikes and when to speak and when to shut up. When one goes, it is not always easy to take up with somebody else.
Strauss knew the lot from top to bottom, Compton had to win Cook's faith. Two consecutive hundreds for Compton, as well as three century opening stands and two more above 50 tell their own story about how quickly they have come to be at ease with each other. Cook will never forget Strauss, of course, but Compton is the man at the other end now.
Cook said: "He's actually very good at picking out little things I'm trying to do as well. He's quite intense like that, but it works so well for him."
As for Compton: "I'm not just saying it but I really enjoy batting with Alastair. He's relaxed, focused. He's got those eyes that say 'I'm here to fight' – it's something that's very much worked for me as well."
Cook is delighted that the runs have come for his new partner. "He played with a lot more freedom in the second Test after a hundred in the first but still with that control and discipline which has made him such a heavy run-scorer for Somerset. He's just starting to transfer that, to feel comfortable at Test match level."
For Compton, a highly thoughtful cricketer, it is all as much a source of relief as elation. He had spent 10 years waiting for his chance, dogged along the way by all those comparisons to his grandfather, Denis, icon of the English game. Perhaps in some ways it was that which meant it took Compton junior so long to find a style that worked for him.
"Going into the unknown is not always a comfortable place to be," Compton said, "but it just shows if you stick with it long enough and you persevere with what you've worked towards your whole life you eventually come through. I think that's something I've proved to myself and perhaps proved to a few other people as well."
There is abundant goodwill towards Compton, partly because of his relationship to Denis, whose light still glows in the English game, and partly because he is a product of a decade's hard work in the County Championship. Not many make it to England these days through dint of their runs in that competition. They have usually been earmarked long before.
Compton was picked for the squad to India, then made the team. He played his part in that epic victory but never made more than 58. It was hardly nailing down a spot and there were many who foresaw a short career. He readily conceded that he felt under pressure coming into this series against New Zealand.
"Yes, I think did," he said. "I felt more under pressure from myself. Following the Indian series I found Christmas quite a difficult period just because I felt I'd done OK but it was a little bit frustrating because there was that waiting period knowing I could have done better, could have really got in there. I suppose there's only so much self-analysis you can do."
He should now have done enough to guarantee him the series against New Zealand at home. But the Ashes later in the summer and next winter are what he really wants. Sometimes it is difficult to stop his mind straying there, for he wants that above all.
"It is at night, you go to bed at night thinking about the Ashes, you might read the odd comment here and there of course," he said. "You get full of a kind of exuberance which is what keeps driving you. I think if you ask anyone in this room I think they'd all like to play in the Ashes. I feel the same way." Cook and Compton should both be there, together.
Great starts: England's top openers
AN Cook/AJ Strauss (2006-12)4,711
JB Hobbs/H Sutcliffe (1924-30)3,249
L Hutton/C W'brook (1946-51)2,880
Strauss/ME Tresco'k (2004-06)2,670
MA Ath'ton/GA Gooch (1990-95) 2,501
Tres'thk/MP Vaughan (2002-05)2,487
Hobbs/W Rhodes (1910-21)2,146
Atherton/AJ Stewart (1994-98)1,930
G Boycott/Gooch (1978-82)1,754
Boycott/JH Edrich (1964-72)1,672
RW Barber/Boycott (1964-66)1,171
Ath'ton/MA Butcher (1997-2000)1,107
DL Amiss/Boycott (1973-74)990
MC Cowdrey/G Pullar (1960-62)906
Boycott/JM Brearley (1977-81)874
TW H'ward/AC M'Laren (1901-05)766
NRD Compton/Cook (2012-13)755
Starc faces race to be fit for the Ashes
Australia paceman Mitchell Starc is doubtful to be fit for the start of the Ashes after he returned home early from his team's tour of India in order to undergo ankle surgery.
Cricket Australia confirmed that the 23-year-old will head home, missing the fourth Test which gets under way in Delhi on Friday, and will go under the knife later this week to remove the bone spurs on his right ankle.
The Australia team doctor, Peter Brukner, said: "Mitch has been experiencing ankle pain related to bone spurs during the India Test series and, whilst manageable, this represents an appropriate time for Mitch to have the surgery with a view to having him fully fit for the Ashes in late June."
Mickey Arthur, the Australia coach, added: "We want to have Mitch fit for the Ashes series in England. We will assess his recovery and hope he's also fit for the Champions Trophy."
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