In Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island today, England donned their whites for the first of their tour matches before the Test series against the Kiwis. For several of the party, it was the first competitive outing in well over two months as England’s split-team policy meant that amongst others, Nick Compton was not considered for selection for the ODIs or t20 Internationals. He has spent, therefore, the start of 2013 assessing the beginning of his Test career on the bowler friendly pitches in India. England showed great confidence in bringing him to New Zealand and he will be hoping he can repay some of that faith.
A County cricketer since 2004, Compton has a security in his own technique and the self belief that many cricketers selected for England whilst in their formative years discover 4 or 5 years into their England career. He can take solace in the career trajectory of another late bloomer, Mike Hussey, the Australian who was overlooked for years whilst he waited for Steve Waugh to retire. Once he did, Hussey stormed onto the International stage at the age of 30 and finished with an average of 51 from 79 Tests.
Although having not enjoyed quite the same early glory as Hussey, Compton made many solid, if not spectacular, scores on his first senior tour to India. Three half centuries in the tour games before the series indicated his comfort batting on the dust bowls of India and despite registering just one half century in the Tests, he looked most at ease when chasing a target as demonstrated by his 30* in the 2nd Test, ensuring England did not labour to their victory target.
Touring India is one of the more testing locations for batsmen, particularly those used to England’s green pitches. Compton was facing an enormous challenge therefore, being on debut and more familiar with the batting haven in Taunton. Yet he applied himself with great solvency and the fact that the England selectors have shown faith in him for this tour must have been a huge confidence boost. New Zealand’s wickets typically behave in a similar fashion to those in England due to the comparable climates – so he should enjoy the chance to build some large scores.
As a person, Compton carries himself in a likeable way. He is clearly intelligent, with his erudite offerings on his website demonstrating the attitude of the man. He is a wise cricketer with 16 First Class hundreds to his name and the experience that he is bringing to this England team is irreplaceable. The experience and calm that he brings to the wicket is necessary more in this year of back-to-back Ashes, should he retain his Test spot. England do not want a batsman doubting his forward defence, or the way he leaves a ball, in the middle of a hotly contested series. Compton will not do this – his polished technique has been honed and he is the perfect man for the job.
New Zealand are undercooked. Their bowlers are short of confidence, but not running low on reasons to impress or impose themselves. This will be a competitive series, but one should not be too easy on England. Compton and his fellow batsmen should be looking to score big and send a message across the Tasman.