Notts pitch cleared after heavy defeat
Warwickshire 263 (Bell 122, Porterfield 56, Carter 5-55) and 152 (Siddle 3-38, Gurney 3-42) beat Nottinghamshire 116 (Patel 54, Woakes 3-13, Wright 3-34) and 201 (Jaques 64, Wright 4-70) by 98 runs
Nottinghamshire escaped a penalty for the state of the pitch at Trent Bridge, where it took Warwickshire little more than half the scheduled game time to win by 98 runs. An ECB pitch panel chaired by pitch liaison officer Tony Pigott reached that conclusion after an investigation that lasted around three hours.
Pigott, assisted by fellow PLO David Capel and ECB pitches consultant Chris Wood, interviewed captains Chris Read and Ian Bell, coaches Mick Newell and Dougie Brown, along with Nottinghamshire groundsman Steve Birks. Announcing the verdict, Pigott said: "It was not a case of letting anyone off the hook. There are a range of verdicts we can reach and taking into account all the evidence available and having interviewed everyone concerned we reached the conclusion that the pitch is below average. Therefore there is no points deduction."
On the question of whether counties should or should not use the heavy roller at this time of year - and the home side now has the option to make the heavy roller available or not, depending on their preference - Pigott said it was not for the panel to offer advice in that regard. In this instance, Nottinghamshire decided not to make the heavy roller available.
"The indentations in the pitch in April tend to become bigger because of the damp and had they decided to use the heavy those indentations would not have been there," Pigott said. "But that is a question for them to decide on."
A relieved Newell, for whom a points penalty would have been a serious blow after Nottinghamshire's stuttering start to the season, said he felt the decision was the correct one.
"The scores reflect the fact that it is not a great pitch but we wanted a pitch with pace and bounce and with two good-quality seam bowling attacks on view the batting, with the exception of Ian Bell and William Porterfield on their side and, to a degree, Phil Jaques on ours, was not up to it," he said. "Of course it is a relief. You are anxious while the panel is reaching its verdict because you never know what people are thinking.
"We will go away and take some lessons on the subject of the heavy roller but the fact is that, at Trent Bridge, the heavy roller tends to kill the pitches. You go back to our first game against Lancashire and on the last day the pitch is flat, they are chasing 350 and we nearly lose the game.
"We would rather use the light roller and let the pitch deteriorate naturally and we think the pitches will never be rubbish here, there is no history of them getting up and down and really variable. Having said that, I accept that a match finishing before lunch on the third day is not ideal. So we'll have to think about that."
The surface, the same as the one used when Middlesex won by 10 wickets in the first match here last season and which was marked good on that occasion, suffered some indentations on the first day that did not flatten out. A points deduction, however, would have been harsh on Nottinghamshire and in particular on Birks, who was the ECB groundsman of the year in 2012 and wins high praise for his Test pitches.
This one offered too much help to the bowlers but did not pose any danger to life and limb, even though the bounce was variable and sideways movement at times exaggerated. Bell, the Warwickshire captain who made the highest score of the match, described it as "not first-class but not dangerous".
Newell felt the perception of the pitch might have been different had more of his own batsmen followed Bell's example in countering the vagaries in bounce simply by remembering to use his feet.
"If you look at the quality player in the game there wasn't much wrong with his footwork and you've got to learn from that," Newell said. "If you get stuck on the crease, which a lot of people did, that's when you nick balls and you look at the wicket. No, you should look at your feet, because if you don't move your feet that's when you are going to nick it."
In the event, thanks to Phil Jaques and Michael Lumb heeding that advice on the second evening, Nottinghamshire resumed on 126 for 3 with a chance of chasing down their 300-run victory target. The pitch at that time appeared to be losing some of its venom and Nottinghamshire's players would have been pleased to feel the sun peek through as they warmed up.
The balance shifted back to Warwickshire when Nottinghamshire, having reduced their requirement to 144 for the loss only of nightwatchman Luke Fletcher, saw three wickets fall in the space of five deliveries, as the capricious nature of the surface again raised its head. James Taylor was leg-before to Chris Wright, when the ball kept a shade low but the batsman was tentative, and then Riki Wessels was out to one that took him by surprise with the way it lifted, taken at second slip. Samit Patel perished to the next delivery, from Keith Barker, which slanted across him and took the edge
Chris Read, who has dug his side out of many a scrape in his 16 years at Trent Bridge, was not for giving up the ghost but once he had holed out to deep midwicket, loosely pulling a ball from Chris Woakes, it was effectively all over. Peter Siddle, a canny practitioner with a couple of Test fifties to his name, was left with only Andy Carter and Harry Gurney for support.
Wright finished with seven wickets in the match and looked to have put his six-month absence with a stress fracture in 2013 behind him. "I had a bit of a worry about a couple of weeks ago when I had a stiff back but fortunately that was just down to some new insoles I had been using," he said. "Otherwise it has been good.
"You don't really know, after a long lay-off, how you are going to be in the full intensity of a competitive match but after getting that out of the way with the first match against Sussex at Edgbaston I've been fine. I feel good. I think we all bowled well as a unit against Lancashire last week when we were probably unlucky not to win and we have built on that here."