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Jon Culley at Trent Bridge
April 5, 2012
Worcestershire 130 lead Nottinghamshire 118 (Jones 6-32) by 12 runs
It is never wise to pronounce judgment on the performance of one batting line-up, however dismal, until their opponents have responded. Yet Worcestershire's dismissal for 130, giving them an advantage of 12, made Nottinghamshire's paltry effort look no better.
Poor returns from their top order undermined them almost at every turn last year, undoing their hopes of defending the County Championship title they had won in 2010, which left their supporters disappointed even if it confirmed to others that their victory had somewhat overstated their quality.
The winter arrivals of Michael Lumb, experienced and yet still hungry, and the prodigiously talented James Taylor, captain of the England Lions, were supposed to put that right and in time they might. Yet evidence of that was not obviously visible after Worcestershire won the toss and put them in, the loss of opener Alex Hales to the fourth ball of the day setting in train an array of poorly judged strokes, interspersed with a few decent balls, that led them to a total only one run better than their worst of 2011.
It was not what Chris Read, the Nottinghamshire captain, had in mind when he boldly announced that he had the best Nottinghamshire batting line-up since 2005, when they won the title under the leadership of Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain, and three batsmen -- Jason Gallian, David Hussey and Darren Bicknell -- each scored more than 1100 runs.
Conditions were plainly not easy. Yet on a cloudy, chilly morning that had been preceded by two days of rain, nobody can have expected anything different and in the event Lumb and Taylor were merely new names in an otherwise entirely familiar script.
In defence of Lumb, whose last memory of Trent Bridge was a double hundred here for Hampshire in 2009 (albeit August), the ball that undid him was not at all bad, David Lucas, the Worcestershire debutant who began his career here, drawing him forward to defend against a ball that left him very late.
But Taylor, perhaps, might consider on reflection that he could have been more patient. Arriving at 17 for 2, he dispatched his sixth ball to the fence past point but, trying the same shot again, could only find the fielder there two balls later.
Taylor was one of six victims for Richard Jones, at 26 the junior member of Worcestershire's seam attack. The tireless Alan Richardson, who will be 37 next month, may have lost one fellow warhorse with the retirement of Matt Mason but 33-year-old Lucas is another who thrives on cold April mornings.
Jones was the chief beneficiary of Nottinghamshire's carelessness, finishing with 6 for 32.
Nottinghamshire's embarrassment could have been deeper. Neil Edwards, given the nod to open ahead of Karl Turner, was unlucky, well forward when victim of an lbw decision that would probably not have been given only a short time ago, but otherwise only Paul Franks, with 16 seasons' experience of playing on these wickets, emerged from the wreckage with his head held high, finishing unbeaten on 51.
It was an opportunity for Worcestershire, who lost their first six matches last year, to register some early defiance after again being installed as relegation favourites. Yet their batting proved scarcely less fragile, even if, in their case, the wickets were more down to good bowling.
The Australian Michael Klinger, shaped up neatly for a while on debut, suggesting he might provide an innings to stand out. But he fell for 29 and Worcestershire seldom looked good thereafter for anything more than a slender lead as Ben Phillips, who struggled to make an impact last season, justified his selection for the place made available by the injury to Darren Pattinson by taking his first three Championship wickets for Nottinghamshire.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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