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George Dobell at Trent Bridge
April 19, 2012
Nottinghamshire 93 for 6 v Somerset
Sometimes you wonder what would become of Nottinghamshire if it were not for Chris Read. While the club's top order, routinely dealt a tough hand on demanding pitches, so often struggle, it seems Read just as often digs his side out of trouble.
On a rain-curtailed day at Trent Bridge, he made a typically uncomplicated half-century to arrest a slide that had threatened to be terminal. While Nottinghamshire, teetering on 34 for 5 at one stage, are hardly out of the woods, Read at least kept them in the game in conditions that greatly favoured the fielding side. That the next highest contribution to the Nottinghamshire total was the extras tally of 13 speaks volumes.
So, how does Read succeed where others fail? For a start, he does not face the new ball or, generally, the best bowlers at their freshest. But he also exercises fine judgement about which balls to play and which to leave and uses his diminutive frame to an advantage. While Alex Hales, so elegant until his departure, was drawn into a footless waft at one he could have left, Read is rarely drawn into playing away from his body. Samit Patel, too, tempted into an oddly lavish drive outside off stump that resulted in an edge to point, could also learn from Read's discipline.
That is not to say that Read is a dour batsman. Quite the opposite. He counterattacked sensibly, pulling Peter Trego for six when he dropped short, and negated the painfully slow outfield - the first boundary off the bat came in the 17th over - with some crunching drives.
Matt Prior's excellence has surely ended any debate about a Test return for Read. It is a shame, though. Read's batting has improved a great deal since his last Test in January 2007. He averages 47.14 in first-class cricket since the start of 2009 and, at 33, remains one of the best limited-overs finishers in the domestic game. He could still shine in ODI cricket.
Matters could have been even worse for Nottinghamshire had Somerset's first-choice attack been available. As it was, the visitors were without Vernon Philander, Adam Dibble and Geemal Hussain through injury and were obliged to field the promising but inexperienced pair of Lewis Gregory and Craig Meschede, while Trego, who has never taken a five-wicket haul in a first-class game for Somerset, took the new ball.
News of any injury to Philander will send shivers down the spine in South Africa. Only one man (Charlie Turner, back in the nineteenth century) has taken 50 Test wickets in fewer matches than Philander's seven and it is anticipated that he might have a large influence on this summer's Test against England which may well define who is ranked the No. 1 Test team.
South Africa have little to fear. While Philander has a variety of niggles, none of them are thought to be serious. Somerset rested him from this game after discussions with Cricket South Africa and expect him to be available for next week's Championship match against Lancashire. They might even have fielded him here had the weather been warmer.
"We don't want to take any risk with him," Brian Rose, Somerset's director of cricket told ESPNcricinfo. "There was a danger that he could play, worsen the injury, and then go home and not be available for us again.
"He has played two matches in very cold weather and, with the forecast suggesting we were going to have more cold weather, I decided not to risk him. We've been liaising closely with Cricket South Africa ever since he arrived and, as things stand, he should be fine for next week."
Nottinghamshire failed to take advantage of his absence. Inserted in conditions that assisted seam bowlers, Nottinghamshire's top order lacked the requisite technique or temperament to prosper. Lefthanders Neil Edwards and Michael Lumb were both trapped in front by fine deliveries from Trego that nipped back, while James Taylor's failure to play straight - his drive was aimed at mid-wicket rather than back past the bowler - was exploited when Steve Kirby found his outside edge with one that left him off the pitch. Playing on these bowler-friendly surfaces may well prove to be the making of Taylor, but there could be some tough days on the road to success.
Steve Mullaney accompanied his captain for a while, contributing ten of a sixth-wicket stand of 55, but when he left a straight one, it left Read and the lower-order with much to do. Nottinghamshire are also without their leading pace bowler, Andre Adams, who has flu; Harry Gurney, one of three players recruited in recent years from Leicestershire, makes his Championship debut for the club.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?