Twice as satisfying


Nick Compton isn't your average wide-eyed debutant. A career spanning 98 first class matches must have prepared him for most of international cricket's challenges. But five balls into his first Test innings, he was confronted by one he may never have faced before.

Clockwise, from 12 o'clock: an off spinner, passing a two-over-old ball from hand to hand; silly point; slip; a helmeted wicketkeeper, leg slip, forward short leg. Between the last two named fielders, slightly deeper, crouched short midwicket. England were 13 for no loss, 508 behind India.

Ravichandran Ashwin had taken the new ball. Alastair Cook had seen off his first over, but not without alarm. He had let two off breaks go past him, and seen MS Dhoni collect both with gloves pointing up, and almost played on to a short ball that bounced less than expected. Almost every ball had raised a dust cloud.

Compton worked the second ball he faced from Ashwin into the leg side for a single. But this was to be an anomalous occurrence for the rest of the evening. To pretty much every delivery that Ashwin or Pragyan Ojha bowled at him, Compton's response was to push forward and prod with a vertical bat. He seldom broke his wrists to try and work the ball square on the leg side, or waited to open his face and squirt the ball into the off side.

Encouraged by this display of tunnel vision, Dhoni moved his fielders into seldom-seen configurations for spin bowlers. When Ojha bowled, Compton was surrounded by three slips, a silly point and a short leg. Each time a new catcher appeared, Compton's defensive prod grew more perilous.

Dazed, confused

In the end, Ashwin didn't need any help from his fielders. A loopy off break spun through the gate and bowled Compton for nine. This was his 53rd dot ball, of which 33 had come against the spinners.

... contd.

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