NICK Compton inched back ahead of Joe Root, with an ultra-patient maiden 50 for England, in the battle to become Alastair Cook’s next Test match opening partner.
After their respective first-innings failures to convince at the Dr DY Patil Stadium, Compton and Root had another chance to resolve the issue as England batted again on the final day against Mumbai A. Root survived Compton when they scored 28 and nought two days ago but this time, it was the other way around as Compton (65no) displayed plenty of the grit – and some of the skill – England will need in their forthcoming four-Test series against India.
The grandson of the great Denis demonstrated little of the flair he might have inherited, but that was hardly the order of the day as he ground his way to a three-hour half-century from 142 balls. England closed on 149 for two, augmenting a lead of 59 after bowling their hosts out for 286 in a match which duly ended in a predictable stalemate.
In a contest all about preparations for next week’s first Test in Ahmedabad, top of England’s list was a telling indication as to the identity of the man to replace the retired Andrew Strauss at the top of the order. While Root again came unstuck in the 20s, Compton stayed the course – first in a stand of 67 with an almost equally stoic Jonathan Trott and then in the more fluent company of Ian Bell in another half-century partnership.
In 20 minutes of batting before lunch, and another 35 afterwards, Root outscored his opening partner. But the introduction of first-change Shardul Thakur proved the young Yorkshireman’s undoing, falling to the final ball of the seamer’s first over when he played no shot at an inswinger and was lbw. The misjudgment was an occupational hazard for any opener, but not one which will fill Root or England with confidence that he is the man for the job at this stage.
With him gone, however, it was hard to tell initially whether Compton was batting himself into a Test debut or out of one as he crawled towards his first significant contribution in an England shirt. His mitigation was the need to eliminate risk with stakes so high after his previous two innings on tour had accrued just a single.
Trott was in no rush either, and the run rate was barely traceable as Thakur and medium-pacer Shoaib Shaikh bowled respective spells of 7-3-12-1 and 5-2-9-0.
If the flourishes were few, on a slow but true pitch, Compton could be congratulated for giving no chances. The same was typically true of Trott until he went back to an off-break and was lbw to Suryakumar Yadav having made 30.
The home captain would have continued Bell’s poor form had Thakur held on to a sharp chance at leg-gully off the very next ball.
Instead, England’s inked-in Test No 5 avoided a golden duck to go with last week’s scores of five and four - and profited sufficiently to head towards that first Test with confidence intact. England had earlier wrapped up the home innings by taking the last six wickets in 90 minutes, for the addition of just 54 runs. Graham Onions had Hiken Shah (92) caught behind to end his four-hour stay. Monty Panesar and Samit Patel did the rest with their left-arm spin varieties to finish with three wickets each.