Alarm bells ring amid Lancashire rubble
Nottinghamshire 169 (Patel 69) and 304 (Lumb 62, Anderson 5-84) beat Lancashire 146 (Adams 7-32) and 142 (Adams 3-18) by 185 runs
Three defeats for Lancashire in the opening four matches of their title defence will have alarm bells sounding at Old Trafford, at least those that are wired up on this construction site of a ground.
Five down overnight after only 15.2 overs, Lancashire at least managed to delay the inevitable by a session before succumbing to defeat against Nottinghamshire.
Glen Chapple, the captain, much in the manner of a coalition politician, insists there is no need to panic, and that the collection of largely unsung talents that ended the county's 77-year Championship drought is only a couple of out-of-form batsmen away from coming good again.
"We have some players who are searching for form but it is the same lads who won so many games last season and we are still very competitive in the field," Chapple said. "We need a couple more batters in form, and a bit more of a contribution from the tail, myself included. We have to remain level-headed; there is never any point in panicking. All you can do is believe in your players and I'm not disappointed in any of them, just the results."
Lancashire were not helped in this match by the hamstring injury that restricted Tom Smith's contribution to three overs with the ball and two one-legged innings with the bat, nor by the injury and illness that disrupted James Anderson's bowling schedule, but it was difficult to avoid musing on the question of how exactly they did come out best last year.
Then again, Nottinghamshire asked similar questions of themselves at times last season as they failed to defend the 2010 Championship and are scratching their heads a little over how they have come to win three of their first five matches, particularly while managing to bank only one batting bonus point from a succession of poor first-innings scores.
"We go away after the first day thinking we're rubbish and by the end of the game are thinking we're not too bad," their director of cricket, Mick Newell, said on Friday evening. Chris Read, the captain, more or less echoed those thoughts.
"I wish it wasn't like that, or that they'd give us some points for second innings batting," Read said. "That's something we have to address. The wickets have not been particularly batsman-friendly but we have always got to grips with conditions as the game has gone on. We just need to adjust a little bit earlier and start posting some decent first-innings scores.
"We have shown in all the games we have played that the addition of Michael Lumb and James Taylor has given us the capacity not only to score at a good rate but to graft when the situation arises."
Those qualities were key to Nottinghamshire's improvement in the second innings, which contrasted typically with the first, when only Samit Patel managed to sustain the necessary application on a pitch on the realigned Old Trafford square that was both slow and prone to unpredictable variations in pace and bounce.
Lumb, showing he is more than a short-game dasher, spent almost four-and-a-half hours making 69, Taylor two-and-a-quarter over his 46, showing particular resilience against the second new ball.
The other factor was Andre Adams, who took 10 wickets in a match for the sixth time in his career, conceding only 50 runs in 30 overs overall. At nearly 37, he has honed his bowling technique to such a level of consistency that there are few bowlers on the circuit a batsman would be more keen to avoid.
"He does it for us week-in, week-out," Read said. "He puts the ball in areas that make the batsman uncomfortable, whether right-handed or left-handed. He is not a huge swinger of the ball but he moves it both ways and with the majority of his balls he will be looking to hit off stump. He is always modifying it and he seems to get better with age."
Adams took the first of the five wickets needed for Nottinghamshire to complete their win, trapping Gareth Cross leg before on the front foot. Stuart Broad, still looking a little rusty after his injury lay-off, had the stricken Smith, batting with a runner, caught off what was judged to be glove; Graeme Swann bowled Chapple when the Lancashire captain gave him the charge; and then Patel, his left-arm spin belatedly pressed into service, had James Anderson caught at slip and Simon Kerrigan at mid-on.
Chapple's surrender rather let down Luke Procter, the 23-year-old all-rounder, whose application was the main reason the result was not reached more quickly. He had offered good support to Chapple with the ball during the period in which Anderson could not bowl and his unbeaten 41 was a gutsy and disciplined effort.
Of the England bowlers put through their paces, Swann looked in good order, accounting twice in the match for Ashwell Prince, Broad less so. Anderson, despite a bout of tonsilitis, still demonstrated what a class act he has become, bowling brilliantly without reward in the first innings, perversely picking up five when less consistent in the second.
"It was a great effort by Jimmy," Chapple said. "Even when he was really crook and had nothing in his legs he wanted to have a go. When his fever subsided he bowled superbly."
Read agreed that Broad, in his first match since a calf injury caused him to be sent home early from England's tour of Sri Lanka, has room for improvement. "He is coming back from injury and it took him a little bit of time to get into the game but once he did he managed to swing the ball and come through at a reasonable pace," Read said. "He showed that he is fit, that there is no reaction to the injury and I don't think he is far off his best."