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Playing in the Ashes meant everything to Nick Compton (in photo right) and everything, of course, was too much for him to bear. That Wednesday in the second week of July came to dominate his existence. It was as though he had lived for that moment.
When he made consecutive Test hundreds in Dunedin (which saved the match) and Wellington on the tour of New Zealand following an unforgettable England tour of India in which he played an important part, it seemed his place was nailed on. But he started the English summer in a state of batting reticence so grave that his thoughts seemed easy to read.
`Mustn’t get out, concentrate, mustn’t get out, don’t do anything daft, mustn’t get out.’ The upshot was that he got out, never more poignantly than in his first Test innings at Lord’s when he skipped down the pitch to the New Zealand left arm spinner, Bruce Martin, essayed a grotesque attacking shot which swirled into the air and was caught.
It showed a tortured soul and it was never to be bright, youthful summer in Compton’s Test batting career again.
Perhaps, too, he could never escape the shadow of his illustrious grandfather Denis, one of the brightest stars ever to have shone in the English firmament. Nick was his own man but Denis’s raffish, buccaneering image was never far away in every forward prop he executed.
At bottom sport should be about enjoyment and it was obvious that poor, worried Nick was not enjoying it. If only he could make Trent Bridge on 10 July then it might change.
In the background there was Joe Root, the 22-year-old Yorkshireman, who had seemed custom designed for international cricket. Many were surprised when Compton was preferred to Root at the start of the series in India. When Root was finally given his chance in Test cricket in Nagpur (a surprise choice at number six at the time) it was pretty clear immediately that it was the start of a beautiful friendship. Compo, sensitive and thoughtful, might have sensed it deep down. It probably explained his irredeemable diffidence at the crease afterwards. What almost certainly did for him in the end was the way in which Root and his fellow Yorkshireman, Jonny Bairstow, shared a partnership of 124 in the second Test against New Zealand at Headingley. There was a freedom and joy about their work which stirred the soul.Andy Flower, the England coach, offered some consolatory words to Compton about getting runs in county cricket. He did, too, 166 of them against Durham but they took 324 balls. Root, meanwhile, had the elusive secret of making the game look easy, even it if it jolly well wasn’t.The selectors had to make their call in picking the team for the warm-up match against Essex where there may be easy runs to be had. Compton was eliminated from a squad of 14 players, which included the Irish fast bowler, Boyd Rankin.
New Zealand score 201/4
Hamish Rutherford&’s brilliant half-century helped New Zealand post a fordidable total of 201/4 in a T20 international at The Oval against hosts England. Rutherford scored 62 and was ably supported by Brendon McCullum who scored a vital 68 which was also the highest score of the innings.