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Jon Culley at Trent Bridge
April 28, 2014
Nottinghamshire 116 (Patel 54, Woakes 3-13, Wright 3-34) and 126 for 3 (Jaques 64) need 174 more runs to beat Warwickshire 263 and 152 (Siddle 3-38, Gurney 3-42)
This match is in the balance, with Nottinghamshire needing 174 runs to win with seven wickets standing on a pitch that has been unpredictable, even in a generous assessment. Whatever the outcome, the home county will be face a nervous time at the close, when a pitch panel convened by the ECB will meet to determine whether action is taken after 33 wickets fell during the first two days.
Nottinghamshire, of course, are at risk of a points penalty if the surface is judged to be of less than a reasonable standard. That could range from eight points if the panel concludes that its position is poor, to 24 points if it is considered to be unfit. They may escape unscathed.
There will be a debate to follow, either way, over the alteration to the Laws that allows the home captain to decide if the heavy roller is available for use, by either side, during the course of the game. Nottinghamshire may not have helped themselves in this instance by deciding it is not available, the consequence of which is that dents to the surface caused by the ball can remain a factor for longer than previously, leading potentially to uneven bounce and unpredictable sideways movement.
Nonetheless, the state of the surface remains their responsibility and the panel may ask why Nottinghamshire, who tend to prepare 'result' wickets without apology, chose to use a pitch well towards the Bridgford Road side of the square so early in the season.
Whatever the panel decides, three innings completed by tea on the second day can be no one's idea of acceptable progress in a first-class match, not when there are eight Test players involved. Batting is no picnic at this time of year, with moisture still close to the surface, but the balance between bat and ball here has been too heavily tilted in the bowlers' favour.
Even Ian Bell, capable of mastering any conditions, as he did in the first innings with the outstanding century that may ultimately be Warwickshire's match-winning factor, found the going tough this time. He had made only 5, having already been beaten twice in the over, when he gave a catch to Chris Read off Harry Gurney as the left-armer slanted a ball across him.
That Nottinghamshire have a chance of winning is a turn-round, however, which may help their cause. Tony Pigott, the ECB pitch liaison officer, arrived at tea to see the target of 300 to win, one that had looked too much at first in view of what had gone before, reduced by 92 during a partnership between Phil Jaques and Michael Lumb for the second wicket, with the demons in the pitch seemingly gone to ground.
Yet there was another twist to come as Lumb was leg before, playing back to Jeetan Patel's offspin, and Jaques, whose 64 is his best score so far for Nottinghamshire, succumbed to an unplayable lifter from Chris Wright that took the edge and had him caught behind.
Warwickshire had been bowled out inside 40 overs, with three wickets each for Gurney and Peter Siddle, the Australia Test bowler, whose value to Nottinghamshire is becoming apparent now that he has some overs in his legs.
Earlier, Nottinghamshire, 43 for 6 overnight, had recovered a little when Samit Patel (54) and Chris Read put on 72 for the seventh wicket. But their last four wickets fell in the space of eight balls, three of them in one over to Chris Woakes.
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