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Nick Compton walks off after being dismissed, Worcestershire v Australians, Tour match, New Road, 2nd day, July 3, 2013

Worcester became the setting for Nick Compton’s last stand and it was a redoubtable last stand, too, as he tamed the Australians for the second time in a week. But he knew in his heart of hearts that it was futile resistance. He has already been formally told that England’s Ashes plans lie elsewhere.

It would have taken a big hundred to leave England feeling slightly sheepish; it would have probably taken a triple hundred, batting blindfold, while reciting Corinthians backwards, to make them change their mind. Instead he made 79 in orderly fashion, upright of stance and upright in intentions, before he hauled a short ball from Jackson Bird to midwicket.

He dragged himself off the field slowly, not wanting to be out in a match in which, deep down, he had not particularly wanted to play. It was an inconsistent innings, with phases where he struggled for timing, but in what has become his personal mini Ashes series, he has taken the Australians for 194 in three goes.

He has seen off three new balls and worn down every Australian fast bowler in turn. He has responded to the pressure England have put him under with conviction. He could not have done much more. But England are determinedly looking elsewhere.

James Whitaker, the England selector, was on hand to keep up appearances, surely aware like everybody else that he was largely ticking boxes. Joe Root, England’s new kid on the block will open the batting with Alastair Cook; Jonny Bairstow will be expected to add some dash at No 6, even though England’s warm-up at Chelmsford illustrated the blindingly obvious: he has barely had a bat in his hand for the past nine months.

For Compton, Root’s emergence as an England star in the making was a ticking time bomb. The question, though, is whether this bomb has exploded before its time.

At Worcester, they know a bit about Test trials; Graeme Hick used to go through them pretty much on an annual basis. Twenty years ago, when the ground was still regarded as the most idyllic in England, rather than the unsatisfying but necessary ground in transition of today, Hick confirmed his England place by stroking the Australians all around New Road, treating a young, blond legspinner with particular disdain. Then Shane Warne went to Old Trafford and bowled the Ball of the Century to Mike Gatting and things felt the same again.

For Compton, though, this was not a Test trial, it was simply a trial. Worcestershire were grateful to be bolstered by a batsman of his talent, but there was little immediate value in it. He announced himself against the fourth ball he faced with an emphatic cover drive against Bird; there were later periods when he struggled for timing. It was an innings which communicated that his desire to play for England remains as strong as ever, but he accepted afterwards that it would change nothing.

One sensed the Worcester crowd knew as much. New Road was packed to the gunnels, so much so that the PA announcer asked the crowd, in a formal, somewhat old-fashioned way, if they would not mind sitting a little closer together, but as Compton played what must have felt like the loneliest innings of his life there was no sense of gathering tension.

England are nothing if not meticulous. They successfully lobbied for Compton to guest for Worcestershire, only a week after he had encountered them for Somerset, not because they are having second thoughts, but because stuff happens: somebody could break a finger in a training mishap or have a seedy encounter with a Nottingham curry.

It is nine days now since the ECB released a statement from Geoff Miller, the national selector, that jarred in its finality. “We believe that Joe Root is currently the best opening partner for Alastair Cook and he will open the batting against Essex,” it read. Essex = England = the first Investec Test. Perhaps the entire series. Perhaps the next ten years.