Future for Compton bleak as Root’s rise continues

Nick Compton
Nick Compton
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England’s selectors have already made their only tough call for the first Investec Test against Australia.

Today’s squad announcement will therefore be mere confirmation, cruel in Nick Compton’s case, of intentions telegraphed 12 days ago.

It was then that England set out their stall, by dropping Compton for their warm-up match against Essex and promoting Joe Root to open alongside captain Alastair Cook – for Nottingham next week at least and barring accident or major inconvenience – this Ashes summer.

Nothing that happened in Chelmsford or Worcester, where Compton was manfully trying to restate his case, has caused a rethink – a fact ruthlessly underlined by coach Andy Flower after England’s 228-run win on Wednesday.

Flower was talking about his bowling attack when he said: “We were pretty clear before this game on our team for Trent Bridge. We’re clear what our squad will be and what our XI will be.

“I’m not going to talk about individuals, but we’re pretty clear about our XI.”

Compton was already painfully aware, it transpired later that same night as he reflected on more runs against Australia, that he was surplus to requirements after his untimely loss of form in the second Test against New Zealand at Headingley in May.

As the bandwagon behind Root’s ascent from No 6 to No 2 gathered ever more momentum, Compton had been told back then his only chance of halting its progress was to go away and make runs for Somerset.

He duly did so and, for good measure, as a guest – at England’s behest – for Worcestershire this week he took his tally in four innings against Australia to 218 runs.

A century was missing, Compton’s critics might point out.

The suspicion is, though, that would have made no difference and after nine Tests, and approaching 500 runs in the low 30s, at the age of 30 Compton may do well to play for England again.

The selectors have made another choice and one which places great faith in the youthful potential of Root.

The 22-year-old Yorkshireman has impressively answered most calls so far, of course, since his international debut in Nagpur only seven months ago.

If he does so again, it will surely preface a substantial Test career. At this stage, it is asking and expecting a lot.

The opening position aside, Root’s move up the order – and the return of a fit-again Kevin Pietersen – leaves another young Yorkshireman in possession of the No 6 spot.

Jonny Bairstow has had precious little opportunity to bat anywhere in any format since impressing alongside Root in their home Test in Leeds.

He spent England’s Champions Trophy campaign ferrying drinks, made 12 in a Twenty20 for Yorkshire against Derbyshire and then twice got into the 20s against Essex before, worryingly, being bowled both times.

“Bairstow has had what he has had. There’s nothing more we can do,” Flower shrugged afterwards, and it seems clear Plan A still pertains – as it surely does with England’s bowling options too, despite a couple of bumps along the road for them in Chelmsford.

Stuart Broad had to sit out the fixture, having hurt his bowling shoulder in the Champions Trophy final.

After a cortisone injection, however, and some bowling on the edge of the square at lunchtime on the final day against Essex, Flower – and subsequently Broad himself – pronounced he will be fit to play at Trent Bridge.

Graeme Swann gave England an even worse scare when he was hit on his right forearm trying to pull a short ball from Tymal Mills.

Despite batting on – Swann was eventually out just six runs short of his first century for England – he went to hospital for X-rays and Flower later confessed there were “great concerns” for a couple of hours or so.

They thankfully proved unfounded and Swann – another with little recent match practice – quickly confirmed his well-being by taking five second-innings wickets.

England can hope then that their injury dramas are over for now. Among the fit contenders, however, performances from their seamers in Chelmsford did not quite tally with the established order.

Durham’s Graham Onions outbowled Steven Finn and Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan, on the pitch as well as in the scorebook, although a last-minute reshuffle is not expected to be England’s preference when the squad for the first Test is announced later today.

They may have discarded Compton but will almost certainly stick with Finn, surprisingly dropped during the Champions Trophy, as their third seamer behind Broad and James Anderson – with the reliable Bresnan included in their 12 today as the accustomed insurance policy.

Probable England squad for the first Investec Test against Australia, starting at Trent Bridge on July 10: AN Cook (Captain), JE Root, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, JM Bairstow, MJ Prior (Captain), GP Swann, SCJ Broad, ST Finn, JM Anderson, TT Bresnan.