Compton shines again after Dewan heroics
Nick Compton strengthened his claims to be Alastair Cook’s opening partner for the first Test with India as runs flowed freely once more in England’s warm-up fixture against Haryana.
On an ultra-flat surface at the Sardar Patel B Ground in Ahmedabad, the tourists were made to work hard for their wickets as Haryana replied to 521 all out with 334.
Opener Rahul Dewan carried his bat for a near eight-hour 143, before Compton and Jonathan Trott followed his lead by guiding England to 118 without loss in their second innings and a lead of 305 heading into the final day.
Having followed up his first-innings 74 with 54 not out, Compton will surely have gained further confidence.
With captain Alastair Cook having already enjoyed two substantial stays at the crease, it was Trott who partnered the Somerset batsman at the top of the order. England’s Test number three closed on 61, he and Compton having progressed with a degree of comfort against a modest attack.
The latter’s big stride in forward defence, and off-drive, is already a familiar sight after two weeks on tour and his initial struggles - Compton made nought and one in his first two innings in India - are becoming happily distant memories.
Under cloudless skies, he helped put England in position to bat on for perhaps half-a-session tomorrow, before captain Cook judges the time is right to again set about the tougher task of taking opposition wickets.
England certainly did not have things their own way in the field as Dewan, his patience and skill never wavering, continued remorselessly.
The Haryana opener edged short and wide of the slips more than once but mostly presented a broad bat in a 315-ball stay.
As England’s stamina underwent an extreme yet appropriate test, for the challenges to come in a four-Test series, Compton floored one straightforward chance - and Matt Prior, back on duty after yesterday’s stomach upset, was also short of his best.
Tim Bresnan, who finished with 3-66, got more than most out of the surface and there were three wickets too for Stuart Meaker, but even they could not shift Dewan.
Reflecting on his worthy efforts, Meaker - called up from the England Performance Programme as cover for Steven Finn - said: “I certainly haven’t done myself any harm by taking a few wickets. It’s a great chance for me personally to show the guys what I’ve got.
“I could come here, play a game, take a few wickets and then perhaps get sent back to the EPP, but I look at it more long-term, a great chance for me to show the new Test captain I can perform in these conditions. That will bode well for a future Test call.”
Pressed on Finn’s chances of being fit for the first Test, Meaker added: “He’s getting closer and closer to being ready.”
Bresnan impressed as England’s most likely wicket-taker yesterday, and got them under way again today when he had Sandeep Singh pushing tentatively forward and edging low to Cook at slip.
The skipper was in the firing line three more times before lunch. But the ball evaded his grasp when Amit Mishra twice edged past slip and Dewan, on 87, did likewise off Jonathan Trott - a rare false shot in a compact and controlled tour de force.
Mishra was gone relatively soon anyway, turned round by Meaker and caught behind to give the Surrey seamer his maiden first-class wicket for England.
Yet Dewan remained to complete his sixth first-class hundred with a cut for his 14th four - earning the polite applause of the bowler, Monty Panesar, in acknowledgment.
Meaker subsequently got through Jayant Yadav’s defences and then had Amit Vashisht dropped on four by Prior, diving down the leg side.
Vashisht enjoyed more fortune when Compton failed to accept a simple catch at point off Graham Onions, but the error cost only five runs as Samit Patel got his man lbw pushing forward.
Dewan was then joined in a ninth-wicket stand of 62 by Chanderpal Saini, the number 10 belying the fact he was playing in only his second first-class match at the age of 25 after a debut just last week.
Meaker eventually had Saini lbw to claim his third scalp, before last man Sanjay Budhwar was caught in the gully off Kevin Pietersen for nought.
There was still time for England to push for a morale-boosting win, all the more so after the unbroken century opening stand which followed.