Friday, 14 December 2012

The Cricketing and Footballing Comptons

As recently as the 1970's you had guys who played the great summer sport along with a winter one at serious levels. Chris Balderstone, Jim Cumbes, Arnie Sidebottom, Phil Neale and Ted Hemsley (when he wasn't in the bookies) all kicked the round ball whilst Alistair Hignell, Steve James and quite a few New Zealand cricketers handled the egg shaped one. Here Thorpster looks at a family who have some serious sporting talent including one who is opening the batting for England at the moment...A translation of the terminology is at the bottom of the page!

The Compdog...serious sporting pedigree

In the current series in India, due to the new skippers batting heroics the contribution of his opening partner, quiet but solid (the opposite of Dan on a Saturday night/Sunday morning) has gone largely unmentioned.

Nick Compton, aka the Compdog's steady entry to the test arena in very difficult circumstances is in my opinion to be admired. How many opening batsman used to a diet of * Tommies on LDM's have been thrown into the Bengal Tigers Den, with one and sometimes two spinners opening the bowling on Test debut? I for one, when thrown into the club first eleven as a sixteen year old opener looked for young quicks spraying it around at pace. After all that is what opening batsman are brought up on. So all credit to the Compdog, the selectors and management who have previously ignored the tried and trusted county performer in favour of more newsworthy flashy youngsters.

Nick grafted and ground his way to a mountain of runs last season averaging 99, which is an achievement in anyone's books and his start to test cricket is more than reasonable. The Compdog compared to his illustrious partner and skipper, and due to his family history he is inevitably compared to two other all round sportsman, his grandfather Dennis and his great uncle Leslie, making up a spectacular sporting dynasty. Even the Carringtons of Denver couldn't boast such a family achievement. However I do not not doubt that many a Compton family innings has been played on an * Alexis Carrington-Colby (Joan Collins).

Dennis...a Middlesex and Arsenal legend

Being a devoted Arsenal and Middlesex man I grew up reading stories and also being told by my old man about the famous sporting Compton brothers Dennis and Leslie.  Both the brothers represented the two North London giants back in the day's when due to the shorter football season it was far easier to combine the two. While Dennis excelled at cricket, Leslie the older of the two brothers was primarily known as a footballer. A less well known fact is that Dennis's two sons Richard and Patrick also played first class cricket.

Dennis is generally regarded as one of Englands greatest ever batsman having played with distinction for nearly 30 years. Like another England great Michael Vaughan the latter part of his sporting career was hampered by a serious knee injury. However during his cricketing career he scored an amazing 140 centuries and 211 fifties with a fantastic conversion rate. As well as being hampered by injury his Arsenal career was split by the Second World War meaning his appearances were sporadic.

In comparison, older brother Leslie had a rather more illustrious ball with the big round ball than the smaller red one preferred by his sibling. Either side of the war Leslie played over 250 first team games for Arsenal and won two England caps in 1950. Mirroring his better known brother, Leslie also represented Middlesex with great distinction, between 1938 and 1956 as a wicket keeper. These days he may not have lasted so long as his batting was not as strong as many of today's keepers with average of 16.75 in his 272 appearances. However with the gloves on behind the stumps he took 468 catches and made an admirable 131 stumpings.

The amazing Compton brothers also enjoy the record of being the only two brothers to have won the national football and cricket championships together. The two boys were born in Hendon and after retiring from his dual sports careers Leslie turned to the trade of many ex footballers (much admired by The Middle Stump) as a pub landlord in Highgate, not too far from either Lords or Highbury.

Going back to the more legendary Dennis, he was the polar opposite of his grandsons opening partner Alistair Cook. Many cricket stattos including my good self, were startled at the fact that Cooks unfortunate run out last week was his first in 277 innings. Dennis Compton on the other hand was legendary for his running between the wickets in another sense. One of his contemporaries Trevor Bailey once ventured that "a call for a single by Dennis should be treated as nothing more than a basis for negotiation".

Bailey - "a call for a single by Dennis should be treated as nothing more than a basis for negotiation

Ironically in his big brothers benefit match in 1955 Dennis managed to run Les out before he faced a single ball!

Another classic story regarding his legendary absent mindedness was when at a dinner in honour of his 70th birthday his great pal Peter Parfitt claimed that Dennis mother had rung up and told him he was in fact 69! At the end of his long career which included distinguished stints facing spinners with distinction in India like his grandson, he went on to become a respected journalist and BBC commentator. His final post was as the first ex pro to become president of the county he served with such distinction.

Whilst many years ago dual cricket and football careers were not unusual, but with the year round nature of both sports, pursuing both at the top level is almost impossible. I for one am delighted that Nick Compton is representing England and has also represented his genetic beloved Middlesex with such distinction. I wonder how he goes in the pre match kickabouts?

The Middle Stump salutes the sporting Comptons and let's hope Nick enjoys a long and successful Test career.

* Tommy = Tommy Rundler - a trundler
LDM = a damp track as sported by Lindsay Dawn McKenzie
Joan Collins = a damp track that sweats under the covers except in The Bitch or The Stud (can't recall which, maybe both?) where she shows a bit of foliage.
These and many more are to be found in our book Cricket Banter out in April 2013.


  1. Denis, unlike his offspring, was a product of the state school system at the height of the Depression. He first came to public attention when, as a 14yo he made a century at Lord's for a London Elementary Schools XI against a Public Schools XI (a fixture that would be impossible today) when he opened the innings with an equally young Arthur MacIntyre who was to be Surrey's wicketkeeper in their 7x Championship-winning side in the 1950s. He was immediately signed up for Middlesex by Sir Pelham, "Plum", Warner.

    So much for class distinction! I wonder how many Comptons have been lost to England and fc cricket generally since cricket has all but vanished from the state system?

    One of "Compo's" most remarkable innings was his destruction of the Pakistani attack at Trent Bridge in 1954 when he scored 278 in 287 minutes. He shared in a 5th wicket stand of 193 of which his partner, the aforementioned Trevor Bailey, made 13! Denis was then aged 36 and missing a knee and thought by many to be past his prime. He scored the last of his 123 fc centuries in the West Indies in 1964 at the age of 46.

    He was probably, with the possible exception of Sir Jack Hobbs, the finest player of spin bowling ever to play for England. He was also totally fearless against quick bowling as witnessed by his innings at Old Trafford in 1948 when he was struck on the head by Keith Miller in the pre-helmet era but returned to score 145.

  2. Allan, fantastic knowledge and great comments. Thank you so much!

  3. doesnt apply to this post I know but.......Do you think it frustrates Nick Compton to never be able to see anything written about him the press without a mention to Denis or any other member of the Compton family? I for one cant stand it, its always "he stands on the boundary with a 6 pack and 20 marlboro........ just like his dad" my dad used to smoke Embassy ffs!

  4. Nick's very much his own man.His early career at Middlesex was difficult as he was inevitably in the shadow of his Grandad,and he found it hard to settle in,as he strove to emulate him.This led to spats with team mates and clashes with authority.
    His move to Somerset was great for him away from the pressures on him at Lord's and he has now matured into a truly talented player in his own right.