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Nick Compton: What Jack, Lewis and Tom can expect in New Zealand

Jack Leach, Lewis Gregory and Tom Banton will all be spending time in New Zealand this winter with the various England squads.

Lewis and Tom have travelled to take part in the IT20 series whilst Jack will be heading to New Zealand ahead of the Test series.

One man who knows what it’s like to represent England in New Zealand is former Somerset batsman Nick Compton, who played Test cricket there whilst on the staff at the Cooper Associates County Ground.

We caught up with Nick this week to talk about his time with England in New Zealand.

“One of the great things about playing international cricket is that you get to travel to some amazing places and New Zealand is certainly one of those places,” he said. “We had a pre-camp in Queenstown, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. There are some similarities to playing cricket in England in terms of the conditions and the fact that a lot of the grounds are quite intimate. Playing at somewhere like Dunedin, where there are grass banks for supporters to sit on, was very much like being at an English ground. It’s just an amazing country to visit and it’s certainly one of the best tours I’ve ever been on. I think we all wanted to be able to stay there for a couple of weeks afterwards so that we could travel around a bit more!

“The fans are pretty easy-going and there was a friendly atmosphere, which again reminded me of Taunton. The Barmy Army were there and to hear them singing Jerusalem every morning was a pretty special feeling. To play cricket for your country is incredible and I’m pleased that the Somerset guys have got this opportunity.”

The England side that Nick was part of in 2013 arrived in New Zealand in high spirits on the back of a series win in India. Nick was also in good form having scored 1191 First Class runs for Somerset in 2012 at an average of 99.25.

“There is no doubt that Somerset was the catalyst to me playing for England,” he said. “Brian Rose gave me that opportunity, but it took a little while for me to settle in. The Somerset team at that time was really strong. The strength of that team certainly helped me to achieve what I eventually did. To be a part of that team really gave me something to aim for. To get into that Somerset side was an achievement in itself, so to get into that team and establish myself just increased my confidence and things just went from there.

“To get the England call up was fantastic and when we got to India, I wanted to make sure that I played in every Test match. I felt that if I could stay here with the likes of Cook, Bell and Trott then I’d be doing the job.”

Nick made a 50 as England won the series in India but the series in New Zealand didn’t start well as he failed to score in the first innings of the opening Test. However, he made 117 in the second innings, sharing an opening stand of 231 with Alastair Cook.

“I was pleased with how I’d done in India, but I certainly hadn’t nailed down my spot,” he said. “I didn’t know how long my career at International level would last and I tried to break it down to just playing one game at a time. The second innings in that match was huge because another 0 or a low score could have meant that I might not play in the second Test. It wasn’t the last chance saloon, but it perhaps wasn’t far off that.

“My dad was there, and I had a chat with him the night before. I wasn’t in great spirits to be honest. I was thinking that this is it for me, but when I went to bed that night, I felt like I’d been in this kind of situation before. During my career I feel like I’ve been able to turn poor performances around. I’ve been able to come up with a hundred in the second innings when we’ve been down in the dumps a few times. I’d like to think that’s one of my strengths.

“I spoke with the sports psychologist that morning and he said ‘Nick, if you were just a man in the crowd who had won the lottery and your prize was to walk out there and open the batting for England, how would you want that opportunity to go?’ That got me thinking. I thought that if I got that opportunity, I’d like to go out there and hit a couple of boundaries. I’d like to hit a sweet cover drive and hear the Barmy Army go mad. Those would be things to savour. I went out to bat thinking just that. I went out there to play some good shots. I didn’t want to get out just poking at one. I wanted to give myself the chance to express myself. That conversation just made me feel a little more relaxed and it helped to lift all that pressure. What will be will be.

“I hit the first ball down the ground for two to get me off the dreaded pair, which was a big relief. I then got into my rhythm and just did what I’d been doing for Somerset. I could see where my dad was sitting and that became something of a mental check for me because I would look over there at the end of each over.

“I always used to celebrate my hundreds in County Cricket because that’s why you play the game. So much work goes in to making a hundred and it means so much. To do that in Test Cricket was a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever replicate. Having my dad there as well was great and it really made all the hard work worth it. It was just the most incredible elation and it’s still hard to put it in to words.”

What advice would Nick give to the three Somerset players who are heading to New Zealand this winter?

“I think the hard work’s already been done in many ways for them because they’ve shown that they’re good enough,” he said. “My advice to the three of them would be to just keep doing what they’ve been doing all year. Don’t worry about trying to impress anyone, just do what you do for Somerset.

“I’m so happy to see that Jack Leach has achieved everything that he has. I remember speaking to him just after he’d signed his first contract and he was determined to make the most of the opportunity that he’d been given. He was just going to give it absolutely everything and I remember being really impressed by his attitude at that time. I thought ‘good for you’. I don’t need to tell you what a great bloke he is, but I do feel really proud to see him doing so well. I played with Lewis too and he’s always been a great talent and he’s a great guy too.”

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND – MARCH 09: Nick Compton of England celebrates his century as Peter Fulton of New Zealand looks on during day four of the First Test match between New Zealand and England at University Oval on March 9, 2013 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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