Cow Corner

Compton ready to be England’s next opener

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Nick Compton raises his bat in Mumbai

As far as patient half-centuries go, Nick Compton's patient unbeaten knock against Mumbai A was hugely important for the determined 29-year-old, who looks to have done enough to be England's next opening batsman.

Compton had made a faltering start to England's tour of India, just when he needed to hit the ground running: after having made just one run in his first two innings, his 162-ball 64 at the Dr DY Patil Sports Academy allowed him to breath a big sigh of relief.

The Somerset man was given the nod ahead of Yorkshire's Joe Root in England's opening warm-up match, but fell for a three-ball duck, making his 214-minute second innings all the more valuable in the context of an uncertain selection push.

But arguably, Compton had already done more than enough to earn his place at the top of the England order before he had even left the country.

This is, of course, a man who plundered 1494 first-class runs at an average just agonisingly shy of 100 last season. A man who batted with almost unerring conviction and assurance throughout the course of the county campaign.

To take a rather blunt look at the Compton v Root debate, it can be pointed out that the former Middlesex batsman is eight years older than Root - who made 28 and 24 against Mumbai A - with three times as many first-class runs to his name.

Therein lies the dilemma for Andy Flower and Alastair Cook: to select a mature, experienced and seasoned campaigner with a huge weight of runs behind him, or a talented, very promising batsman who can also throw his handy off spin on the table.

Compton has reinvented himself to satisfy the demands of crease occupation and, as a fastidious technician, is more than capable of crafting significant innings in subcontinent conditions and offering a calm head in testing circumstances.

For all the acclaim of his achievements last season, it was not just the volume of runs that Compton managed early this season, but the fact that he made them at a time when every other batsman in the country was struggling - it was almost defiant in the face of near-universal woe for the county batsman.

Root, who excelled through age-group cricket and represents a player with exciting potential, should surely be trumped in this case by the ready-made package of Compton, who talks proudly about the value of 'knowing his own game'.

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During Compton's 64 in the second innings against Mumbai A, the qualities for which he had been chosen and earmarked as the prime candidate to succeed Strauss were evident, in tough conditions and under the pressure of playing for his place in the side.

He was restrained when he had to be; aggressive when he was allowed to be; and disciplined and discerning throughout. Over the course of four hours he simply served to confirm that England were not wrong in putting their faith in him.

Flower and Cook had been looking for someone to come in and play in their own time, in their own way, and with unwavering belief in their own ability. Compton fits the bill more than anyone else in that respect, and now has to be given his chance.

Far beyond just having a solid backfoot game and an unshakeable confidence in the defensive technique he has slowly refined over the course of a long county career, Compton has the drive and the determination to make his shot at international cricket a successful one.

"You just have to stay true to your processes," he said in Mumbai. "Everyone has a couple of key things that keep them grounded and going ball after ball. The key is to try and stick to that. It's very easy to know what not to do when you come here.

"It's my first tour, I desperately want to do well but if you try too hard, if you try to force it, it can go the other way. You want to be ambitious, hungry and take your chance but at the same time you want to stay calm and composed. You have to maintain a balance and trust that you've played well over the year and can continue that here."

England play one more warm-up match - a four-day game against Haryana starting on Thursday, with the first Test beginning a week later - and Compton will be acutely aware of the fact that his place is still far from assured as things stand.

The possibility of Jonathan Trott being pushed up to open the batting with Cook - against his wishes, it must be said - continues to lurk in the background, but Flower has indicated that he would be loathe to tinker more than he has to.

What would have been music to Flower's ears, was the imperious 118 from Jonny Bairstow in the first innings against Mumbai A, which included 14 boundaries, and the 76 from Eoin Morgan.

While it was in the context of a tour warm-up match, the big knocks from numbers five and six provided reassurance for Flower and Cook, while Samit Patel also weighed in with 60 batting at number seven.

Bairstow played in England's last Test, at Lord's, making runs in both innings, but there has been recognition from both the tourists, and indeed India, that Patel is as accomplished a player of spin as Cook's side have in their ranks.

The competition for places in the England order is fierce, but the management are all too aware of the need for all the batsmen to be in good nick, with Ian Bell due to fly home for the birth of his first child after the first Test in Ahmedabad.

No one is suggesting with any certainty that England's batting options are overwhelmingly convincing, but one thing is for sure: there is nowhere better to learn about players'  temperament and technique than on a tour of India.

Touring India was described as 'The final frontier' by Australia's all-conquering sides under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, but for some England players this is just the start.

What do you think England's line-up for the first Test in Ahmedabad should be? Post your thoughts and suggestions below...

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