England appear certain to persevere with Nick Compton as their Test match opener and resist the temptation of instead fast-tracking Joe Root up the order against New Zealand.
Coach Andy Flower yesterday stopped short, as is always the case, of directly airing issues of selection in public before the first Test at Dunedin’s University Oval.
But as he reflected on a performance he described as “sloppy” and “ring-rusty” in England’s defeat against a New Zealand XI in Queenstown, he had praise for both Compton and Root – as well as urging caution about the young Yorkshireman’s progress after just one Test cap to date. Compton did much, on his first Test tour in India before Christmas, to vindicate selection as Alastair Cook’s new opening partner with a string of determined innings in exacting circumstances.
Root also impressed, of course, with a painstaking half-century on debut at number six as England closed out a historic series win in Nagpur – so much so that many good judges have been prepared to predict his swift elevation in time for next summer’s Ashes.
But it was Compton who was given the nod alongside captain Cook in that three-wicket warm-up defeat.
He was caught-behind in both innings for an aggregate 22 runs, and effectively bounced out second time round by Mark Gillespie, while Root managed 66 down at number six.
That was no great endorsement of Compton’s credentials, but Flower was hardly hinting yesterday at any last-minute change of plan.
“I thought Nick played really well in India,” he said. “He had some tricky situations to deal with there – some extreme sub-continent conditions, obviously the pressure of playing in India for the first time.
“I thought he did extremely well out there, without getting the huge score. He put on some really valuable partnerships with Cook.”