First Test: Nick Compton makes a name for himself

Opener gets England out of trouble with maiden century 57 years after grandfather's final Test ton

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The Independent Online

From the grassy knoll at third man came the chant: "Compton, Compton." It was probably never like that when Denis was swashbuckling to any of his 17 hundreds for England, but this is a different age.

Nick, his grandson, is a different batsman too. There is not much of the dash about him, but that makes him his own man. His maiden hundred for England was scored with the team deep in adversity, 293 behind on first innings and desper-ate for a sound start in the second.

Compton and his captain Alastair Cook provided it. They shared a partnership of 231, a record for England's first wicket against New Zealand. Cook reached his 24th Test hundred. While he was out just before the close, Compton continued stoically on the fifth morning until he was lbw for 117.

By lunch England had progressed to 329 for 2, with a lead of 36, and the game appeared all but saved. Even the night-watchman Steve Finn was unbeaten on 42, his highest first-class score, highlighting yet again how woeful England's batsmen had been first time round on a benign, blameless pitch.

The fourth day belonged to Compton. It is always uplifting to see a player score his maiden Test hundred, but reluctant though Compton was to dwell on it, there was a special resonance about this.His grandfather was one of the legends of British sport, the first modern superstar, the Brylcreem Boy himself. It was 57 years since he scored his final Test hundred, and now there is a new Compo.

The difference in the pair is perhaps embodied in the beginnings of their international careers. Denis played in a Test match when he was 19 and was marked out then as a great player. Nick was 29, entering the last-chance saloon, when he was finally selected last November.

It had taken him a decade of constant hard work, a change of counties, a single-mindedness, maybe even a bloody-mindedness at times, to arrive at the point where the selectors concurred with his estimate that he was good enough.

In the mind's eye, all Denis's innings were buccaneering affairs from start to finish, and there is a tendency to think he played some of them while wearing his dinner jacket from the night before.

Nick plodded his way to his hundred over 259 balls, doubtless after an early supper with his father, who is in Dunedin for this match. His intensity and tenacity never wavered. Early on he was beaten outside the off stump four times, pushing at balls he should have left alone.

"It's the biggest relief of my life," he said. "To get to this moment was something special and I never thought a year ago, even a couple of months ago, that I would be sitting here right now with a hundred. I kept believing but it's been a long time. I'm just delighted to be here, it's a strange feeling."

After the early sparring against the new ball, both openers were seamless. There was no rush, they had nowhere to go but the draw. Compton blocked or left. He cover drove, he square drove off the back foot, he pulled and that was about it. Perhaps the most important stroke was the straight forcing shot for one he played to his first ball. It meant he avoided his second duck of the match, the dreaded pair.

Only in the nineties did he begin to betray what all this meant to him. Twice he dashed for singles that did not properly exist, once almost running out the captain and once almost himself. He spent 40 balls getting from 90 to 100; it was excruciating.

The moment at last came soon after Cook was out, with a single to wide midwicket. It should have been Captain Cook out there to be first with the congratulations.

Before this Test, the talk had been not of the new Compton but of Joe Root, seven years younger, the coming man. The selectors kept with their man but their man knew the pressure was building.

"I felt like this innings was very important, I needed to pull something out, it was great that I did," said Compton. "I will probably look back and wonder how it happened but I tried to keep my head down and just focus, and keep it very simple.

"It means a huge amount with my dad being there. We have had a few family issues back home and I'm proud to give that to both my parents to take home with them. It's something I have worked towards for a long time and it's a great occasion to have him here."

Compton's sister, Alex, was paralysed after a car accident six years ago. She was on his mind on this great day as well. And what of Denis? That is for the romantics among us. Nick knew what mattered. "I'm not really worried about that. It's nice to do something that my grandfather did, sure, but right now I'm happy for myself and my family."

Compton admitted his anxieties after his duck in the first innings and paid generous tribute to Cook for keeping him going. Out in the middle it seems that Cook was reminding Compton of the bigger picture, to wit that England were in a mess.

He may be Denis's grandson but it was Nick Compton whose diligence, drive, ambition and perseverance scored a century to help to save England yesterday. That is why they chanted: "Compton, Compton." It wasn't for the Brylcreem Boy.

Dunedin scoreboard

New Zealand won toss

England: First Innings 167

New Zealand: First Innings (overnight 402-7: Rutherford 172, Fulton 55)


*B B McCullum c Anderson b Broad 74/3/9/59/183

B P Martin c Prior b Finn 41/0/8/63/149

N Wagner not out 4/0/0/6/15

Extras (lb7): 7

Total (for 9 dec, 116.4 overs): 460

Fall (cont): 8-447, 9-460.

Did not bat T A Boult.

Bowling J M Anderson 33-2-137-4; S T Finn 26.4-3-102-1; S C J Broad 28-3-118-3; M S Panesar 22-2-83-1; I J L Trott 2-0-4-0; J E Root 5-0-9-0.

England: Second Innings


*A N Cook c Watling b Boult 116/0/15/252/335

N R D Compton not out 102/0/10/265/348

S T Finn not out 0/0/0/6/10

Extras (b6 lb9 nb1) 16

Total (for 1, 87 overs) 234

Fall 1-231.

To bat I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, I R Bell, J E Root, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, M S Panesar.

Bowling T G Southee 18-3-47-0; T A Boult 19-5-34-1; N Wagner 20-4-64-0; B P Martin 25-7-61-0; K S Williamson 5-1-13-0.

Umpires Asad Rauf (Pak) and P R Reiffel (Aus).

TV umpire RJ Tucker (Aus).

Match referee R S Mahanama (SL).