@Yas_Wisden 4 minute read
In the entirety of 2021 only Joe Root and Marnus Labuschagne scored more than five first-class hundreds. With a week left of April in 2022, Ben Compton has already scored five. He speaks to Yas Rana about his special start to the summer.
While the surname is instantly recognisable, there was little known about Ben Compton – the grandson of Denis and cousin of Nick – ahead of the 2022 County Championship. Three rounds in, he’s the story of the season so far.
It is worth dwelling on the numbers for a little while. Compton is the first batter since Brian Lara in 1994 to score hundreds in each of his first three County Championship innings of the season. No one has ever batted for more minutes in a Championship game than the 865 his two innings occupied against Lancashire in the second round of fixtures. He is just the second batter since the war to score a century and bat through the entirety of both innings of a Championship game.
It’s been nine years since Compton moved to the UK as a 19-year-old in pursuit of a career in the professional game. His story is not so much one of late development but more of scarcity of opportunity. Compton has churned out the runs wherever he’s been. He averages over 50 in English club cricket. In 2019, he was the second highest run-scorer in the Second XI Championship. In 2021 – the competition wasn’t held in 2020 – he finished top of the pile.
Initially, Compton hoped that performances in club cricket would help him forge a path towards first-team county opportunities but events did not unfold in the way that he hoped. “My experience was that club cricket wasn’t necessarily a feeder for county cricket any more,” he tells Wisden.com. “I found it difficult to earn an opportunity to play. Just through the nature of things there wasn’t any future or progression from there.”
It took him until his mid-twenties to make his County Championship debut and there were naturally occasions where he doubted whether he’d ever crack it. “There were a lot of sleepless nights,” he says. “Mainly through frustration through lack of opportunity to play. I am really driven and really hungry to try and play. That classic question, ‘if you had your time again, what would you do differently?’ I would probably have liked to have finished school here. I would like to think I would have got into Middlesex U17, or Kent U17 and try and come through that way.”
Even after his Second XI Championship run-scoring earned him a first run of County Championship cricket with Nottinghamshire in 2019, he soon found his pathway to first team action blocked once more, this time through the signing of great England hope Haseeb Hameed. It was Hameed’s England recall in 2021 that earned him further first-team opportunities – this time a three-game stretch – but things didn’t go to plan. “The opportunities I did get, to my own detriment, I was very focussed on trying to make an impact in one game,” Compton admits. “You can get too wound up. The best way of getting the best out of someone is to relax and treat it like another game of cricket.”
An opportunity to do just that presented itself for Compton last winter through a conversation with former Zimbabwe captain Dave Houghton, who got in touch to ask him if he fancied playing first-class cricket in Zimbabwe. For Compton, desperately short of meaningful opportunities, it was a no brainer. It was a profitable visit; Compton reeled off four hundreds – two against the red ball, two against the white – to set him up perfectly for his return to the UK, this time with Kent who he signed for in the autumn.
Compton was a characteristically shrewd Kent signing. Aware of his superb second-team record and in need of a left-hander, he was slotted straight into the XI for the season opener and has made an immediate impact. Halfway through the third round of games, Compton has faced over 500 more deliveries than anyone else in Division One – almost the equivalent to an entire day’s play. For so long short on opportunities, Compton is making sure that he holds onto this one as tightly as he can and make up for lost time.