Biggest relief of my life - Compton
Nick Compton was both proud and relieved after the maiden international century which, along with Alastair Cook’s 24th Test hundred, has put England on course to save the series opener with New Zealand.
Compton marked his fifth Test with a breakthrough innings, consolidation of his hard work in India before Christmas, as he and Cook shared a record stand of 231. Both helped right the wrongs of England’s first innings as the tourists closed day four at Dunedin’s University Oval on 234 for one.
England still trailed by 59 but had vastly-enhanced prospects of salvaging a draw, despite being bowled out for 167 at their first attempt.
Compton, grandson of England great Denis, had many reasons for satisfaction as he upheld a famous family tradition and vindicated the faith of Cook and team director Andy Flower.
His unbeaten 102, one half of England’s highest opening stand against the Black Caps, was proof to himself too that he is cut out for Test cricket.
“It’s the biggest relief of my life. To get to this moment was something special,” said Compton, who was watched and later richly congratulated by his father Richard.
“I never thought perhaps a year ago or (even) a couple of months ago I’d be sitting here right now with a hundred. I kept believing, but it’s been a long time. It’s a strange feeling ... but I’m just delighted to be here.”
Compton’s chanceless innings stuttered only when he entered the 90s, he and Cook both close to being run out as he tried to sneak his way to three figures with a series of tight singles.
Asked if he felt nervous over those final 10 runs, he replied: “Yes ... definitely. I was holding back emotions as much as I could.
“I was itching to have a flap at the spinner before the new ball. But obviously there’s a bigger picture - drawing the game is probably the best result we can get now - and that was something Cookie reminded me of. I managed to rein myself in ... tried to hold my nerve.
“I’m going to cut myself some slack. There were a few nerves there, but I thought I handled those 90s pretty well.”
He got there in the end, in the penultimate over of the day after almost six hours at the crease - a rewarding achievement he and his family will treasure.
Compton, whose sister Alex is paralysed after a car accident five years ago, said: “This means a huge amount.
“I had a few family issues back home, and I think just to give that to both my parents to take home with them is something I’ve worked towards for a long time. I’m proud that my dad’s here. It’s a great occasion.”
Following in his granddad’s footsteps will have obvious resonance with cricket followers the world over. But he said: “I’m not worried about that. It’s great to do something that my grandfather did, sure. But right now I’m happy for myself and obviously my family.”
He has silenced too those who were calling for England to promote Joe Root from number six to open in his place.
“I was well aware of that,” he added. “Joe’s a fantastic talent, and he’s played brilliantly over the last year.
“You just know instinctively ... what you need to do, and I felt like this innings was very important. I knew I needed to pull something out, and it was great that I could. I’ll probably look back and wonder how it happened.
“There’s a lot of people wishing you well, and you just don’t want to let yourself down. It’s something you’ve worked towards for a long time, and you really want to make the most of the opportunity.”
Cook’s presence, almost throughout - he fell for 116 shortly before his opening partner reached three figures, helped Compton do just that.
“I’ve always been someone who’s analysed myself a lot, quite often probably to the detriment - but I think at times that hunger and drive have probably got me to where I am,” he said.
“Alastair is a very level-headed guy, and it was great to have him out there. He’s fantastic - a really solid, special guy.”
After a first-innings duck, Compton had to conquer a few inevitable doubts as well as nerves.
“It’s been a tough couple of days, with a lot of time to think in the field,” he added. “It perhaps wasn’t always pretty. But I’ve done it in the past, and I knew I had it in me. It was just something I had to prove to myself and obviously to others.
“Perhaps I’ve got a bit of a reputation for trying to dig in and really fight. I tend to make it difficult for myself, but I probably get a lot of satisfaction out of that. It means a lot more when you really have to fight.
“How you get them doesn’t really matter when you’ve got them, does it?”