Memories are short in sport, and Nick Compton can probably hear the whispers already.
The 29-year-old hit two centuries in successive innings in the Test matches against New Zealand in Dunedin and Wellington in March, and seemed to have cemented his place in the England side for the whole summer.
But he has failed to get past 16 in his last five innings against New Zealand, after he was caught for one by Dean Brownlie in the slips off the bowling of Tim Southee in England’s first innings of the Headingley Test.
And Yorkshire’s specialist opener Joe Root will not have helped Compton’s feeling of self-worth with his superb 104 off 167 balls later on in the innings, as England posted a creditable 337-7 off 94 overs.
Root may have been batting at number five, but his temperament, technique and ability to play the ball late was more the style of an opener. Time and again he dealt with the swinging ball of Tim Southee and Trent Boult by waiting and waiting, and playing the ball lat the last moment with soft hands.
He has more range than Compton too. He employed both the reverse sweep and the paddle shot in the innings as he looked to progress the run rate when the New Zealand bowlers tired.
Compton is under pressure if Kevin Pietersen returns from injury in time for the Ashes. Jonny Bairstow has not nailed down his place in the side despite hitting 64 off 99 balls himself, and putting on 124 with Root for the fifth wicket, so it will be a straight shoot-out between Compton and Root for the final place.
Sky Sports analyst and former England captain Michael Atherton thinks that Compton will be feeling the pressure even if the selectors reassure him that his place is secure.
“It will be an issue if Compton does not get runs. Selectors have made their choices, but even if it not an issue for them, it will be in the media,” he told Sky Sports.
Compton will also feel that is unfair that he is likely to be the fall guy. His last ton was just five innings ago. Ian Bell has only hit one century in the last 32 innings, but he seems safe.
Compton does have a great temperament and a burning desire to succeed at Test match cricket. One of his training techniques is to dim the lights in the indoor bowling school and set the bowling machine to 99 mph, to replicate the worst conditions he could ever face in Test cricket.
There are two factors that Compton can cling too, though. It is unlikely that the selectors would want to promote Root when he is doing so well in the middle order for England. At 22 and in just his sixth Test match, Root is young and inexperienced and there will be little to be gained and a talent potentially to be ruined if he is fast-tracked too soon.
The other may not have been noticed by many, but it was almost certainly noted by Compton. The second new ball was taken after 80 overs. The first delivery with the new cherry was bowled by Trent Boult, and he got Root out with his first ball.
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