With England actually performing quite well in South Africa, the 51allout collective were left in quite a dilemma. Having built our reputation on generally complaining about everything we possibly can, what could we find to get annoyed about when England are giving the number one Test team an almighty spanking in their own back yard? Well, still quite a lot as it turns out. Some people were still unhappy about the selections of Jonny Bairstow (too ginger), Chris Woakes (not very good at bowling) and Nick Compton (distractingly handsome. And possibly a bit slow at scoring runs). Thinking about it in hindsight, it probably just emphasises that we’re all miserable bastards who probably should have done something more with our lives, rather than just being unhappy on the internet all the time.
Luckily, no-one had anything to do with their weekend, hence we were able to assemble the dregs of said 51allout collective and force them to talk about Nick Compton in an attempt to try and fill the requisite 1,000 words. To make things even harder, Editor Steve left clear instructions that we weren’t to use any gifs or pictures of Jenna Coleman to try and distract from the lack of real substance to our writing.
With the ensemble firmly locked in the office and the fire doors securely bolted shut, we were finally able to concentrate on answering Editor Steve’s questions, starting with this doozy:
Nichael Bluth: Swoon.
James K: Interesting fact: that average is 7.62 runs higher than AN Cook’s. He also hit 1 (one) six, also more than AN Cook.
NB: He also scored at almost exactly the same rate as Alex Hales, which probably says more about how rubbish England’s openers were than anything else.
For me, Compton is a decent stopgap at number three. He’s never going to be amazing, but at least you can generally rely on him to see the shine off the new ball – which he invariably ends up facing – and make things a bit easier for those coming in after him. The real problem has been not converting his starts into something more substantial – getting to 15 off 80 deliveries is fine, as long as you don’t then get out for 15 off 81 balls.
JK: Oh, we have to give real answers do we? I think he’s got the same problem Gary Ballance had – by which I mean if your number three is exposed to the new ball within the first ten minutes of every single innings it’s going to be tough, rather than anything related to being a drunken bastard.
Matt H: Compo did enough for me. After all, England won the series and taking time out of the game might actually have helped them do that (if he hadn’t have stodged up the first innings at Cape Town, South Africa might have had time to win the match). Of course, he’s not the long-term option, but sometimes you’ve just got to pick the right man for the time.
Dan: Ultimately you’re looking at your number three to be scoring big runs on a consistent basis; I don’t see any way Compo does that in the long term. We’ve just binned off Lord Bell who averaged 33 at three, from when he got moved there at Edgbaston last summer, with a handful of 50’s dotted around. If that return was considered unacceptable (and it was probably right to take such a view) then someone performing worse shouldn’t really get much leeway either. Especially when he’s an objectively worse player. Just blunting the new ball isn’t good enough, otherwise Matthew Hoggard would have had a crack at taking Mark Butcher’s spot in 2004.
JK: AN Cook’s 0 (11) in Durban.
Not really, probably was that one. Still a bit annoying he wasted a ball playing himself in, though.
MH: I think he needs to take a leaf out of Peter Such’s book. If you’re going to make a duck, face 52 balls to do so.
NB: To be fair to Compton, at least it suggested that he had a bit of a sense of humour and team ethic, instead of trying to smoulder his way to 6* (92) over three hours.
Dan: I’m still taking Geraint Jones’ farewell to Test cricket in Perth as the greatest duck ever.
MH: Probably. That gives the general public four months in which to get their Sky Sports subscription sorted, ready for the Suranga Lakmal vs. Nick Compton epicbattlethrillerathon.
JK: I hope and think so. Hopefully the fact they actually won the series means a few players who didn’t have a great time are given more of a chance. But for Cook and Bayliss to have had a pop at him in public already is a bit of a concern. He and his family may never be seen again.
NB: I reckon he might end up opening if Hales starts the county season slowly. That will make room for Gary Ballance to put his shirt back on and come in at three.
MH: Yeah, though he’ll start the summer in the side, I doubt he will be by August. Anyone seen the keys for Scott Borthwick bandwagon?
Dan: Paucity of alternatives will probably save him unless Gary Bally makes an absolute mountain of runs in the first couple of months. Like Matt I can’t see him lasting the summer. Shame, as I’m all for dashing handsome types, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice given how lovely our bowling attack is.
By this point Editor Steve had long gone, presumably retreated to the pub to watch the football. All we had to do was wait overnight until he returned to unlock the fire doors and we were free to go about our business. Which mostly seemed to consist of debating whether a Nick Compton/Jenna Coleman lovechild would be the most beautiful creature to ever walk the Earth. We should probably get some other hobbies.