Lancashire v Notts, Aigburth, 3rd day July 15, 2014

Gurney's cover drive brings Read relief


Nottinghamshire 261 (Mullaney 82, Chapple 4-73, Smith 3-44) and 170 for 9 (Read 40*, Smith 3-38, Chapple 3-59) beat Lancashire 225 (Buttler 52, Adams 4-45) and 205 (Khawaja 53, Gurney 4-22, Fletcher 3-33) by one wicket

It was an astonishing afternoon when Lancashire found they had supporters in Leeds, a teatime when Nottinghamshire discovered temporary fans in Newcastle. Such are the transient fealties produced in the second half of the County Championship season when one team's result affects everyone else's fortunes.

When all was done, it was the Novocastrians who were celebrating on Tuesday evening after a tremendous cricket match had ended with Chris Read's team securing a nerve-shattering one-wicket victory which will live in everyone's memory utterly regardless of their loyalties.

Any relief on Tyneside or the banks of the Wear will be felt because Lancashire's defeat leaves the Old Trafford side 11 points adrift of seventh-placed Durham having played a game more. Yet the keenest joy will, of course, be felt in Nottinghamshire's cricketing heartlands like Caythorpe and Cuckney, for their county had completed a win which puts them 11 points clear of Somerset after 12 games and 16 ahead of Yorkshire, albeit that Andrew Gale's men have a game in hand.

Yet great matches also need great finishes and this contest filled that box with more ticks than one. Such matches also need a hero: this game provided many, but none more worthy of the laurels than the teak-tough Read. Needing 170 to win, Nottinghamshire were 119 for 7 when Luke Fletcher joined his skipper. The only time issue was whether the match would end on the third evening or not.

Coolly, the Nottinghamshire pair added 44 runs in 18 overs, Fletcher blocking capably and nudging singles where possible, Read batting with all the skill and nous Trent Bridge supporters know well and love greatly.

A three-wicket victory seemed very probable when Kabir Ali had Fletcher well-caught at third slip by Tom Smith. Enter Andre Adams, who can really only play in one uncomplicated way. A whacked four wide of mid-on and a skied two over Jos Buttler's head followed. Then Adams pulled his fifth ball from Ali to deep-backward square-leg, where Stephen Parry sprinted round and held a fine catch low down: 169 for 9. "When was the last tie in the Championship?" someone asked

That, though, was also the end of the over and the batsmen had crossed. Step forward Harry Gurney, who cover drove Chapple's first ball as stylishly as you like for a single. The Nottinghamshire players on the balcony of the Aigburth pavilion erupted in untrammelled joy. Who know what this win might mean in mellow September? Lancashire's players trooped off, although they may also have been contemplating the eventual results of defeat.

Read was unbeaten on 40, his runs accumulated over 117 minutes off 66 balls. "It was relief in the end," said the captain when queried as to his feelings after the game. "It should have been excitement needing only seven runs with three wickets still in the shed but in the end when Harry Gurney hit those runs I was flapping.

"Harry shouldn't have been on strike and I was not particularly happy with losing two wickets in that penultimate over. It was relief but that's the best shot I have ever seen Harry Gurney play. I'll remember that for the rest of my life."

In that respect, the Nottinghamshire skipper will be joined by the vast majority of the spectators at Liverpool, where Chapple's men have fought out so many tight finishes in recent years. Throughout the day, supporters had sat enthralled by the drama unfolding before them. Newspapers were cast aside, their crosswords barely started.

The second-hand bookstall resorted to a major sale at teatime but no one wanted to read about cricket when there was so much of it to watch. October will come soon enough. The ice-cream van did progressively less business despite the fine warm weather which had replaced Monday's tent-tugging winds. At the tensest moments a frenetic calm settled on the ground.

Yet perhaps we should not be surprised that a game between these two sides should have produced an extraordinary finish. Nottinghamshire secured their 2010 title in dramatic circumstances when they secured a bowling bonus point against Lancashire, and Chapple's men only lost April's opening match of the season at Trent Bridge by 45 runs after a noble run-chase. The teams have a history of producing toughly-contested matches and this result will have pleased nobody more than Steven Mullaney who has represented both counties.

The absorbing dénouement to this game had been set up by morning and early afternoon sessions in which Lancashire had extended their overnight 55 for 2 to 205 at the cost of their eight remaining wickets, Usman Khawaja making 53.

All but one of the wickets had been claimed by Gurney, who took 4 for 13 in 29 balls during a high-quality spell of left-arm seam bowling, and by the Brobdingnagian figure of Fletcher, who removed three batsmen in five balls immediately after lunch. A valuable last-wicket stand of 36 between Parry and Ali probably gave disproportionate encouragement to Chapple's attack but even the most imaginative and experienced cricket-watchers could not envisage the stomach-clutching tension to come.

Initially wickets were almost traded for runs in the visitors' second innings. Four of the top six batsmen reached double figures but no one made more than Riki Wessels. On a wicket which had always rewarded good cricket, Smith removed Mullaney, Michael Lumb and James Taylor to become Division One's leading wicket-taker. Nottinghamshire stumbled to 79 for 5 but had recovered to 116 for 6 when Wessels drove Hogg to Ashwell Prince at cover. The crowd tried to settle, wondering how things would turn out. They little knew.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • George on July 17, 2014, 10:55 GMT

    Obviously Sheridan Porter wasn't following the game in much detail. Kerrigan had to leave to join up with the England squad ahead of the 2nd test match. That is why he didn't bowl in the second innings. He was unlucky in the first innings, whereby Hogg dropped Mullaney from Kerrigans second ball. Other than that you cannot really judge him on how he bowled on a 1/2 day old pitch that wasn't taking any turn. Patel's wicket came from tailenders. Generally, I don't understand how many 'England' fans are so skeptical about a bowler who actually spins it (unlike Borthwick, Briggs, Tredwell, Rashid). He is very talented so give him some report, and his record is good for a young spin bowler so give him some recognition.

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2014, 14:11 GMT

    Lancashire thought so much of Kerrigan that in a tight final innings he did not even get a bowl. Ten overs for no wickets in a crucial contest for his club speaks volumes for theirfaith in their England star bowler.

  • Paul on July 16, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    @gavin7094. Firstly, many thanks for reading my piece (thanks to everyone else who did so, too!) and I hope you enjoy cricket this summer. Secondly, I didn't say that all Yorkshire supporters wanted Lancashire to win; I wouldn't presume to speak for all the members of any group at any time. I merely said what I knew to be true: that some lent their support to Lancashire yesterday afternoon. Temporarily? Certainly. Grudgingly? Probably. But they made their views known on social media. I suppose the reasoning is that Yorkshire may be prevented from winning games by things like the weather or dead pitches, and that they will be helped if their rivals aren't winning either. @nutcutlet: Yes, I think you're broadly right about outground wickets. @everyone else. Yes, Chris Read is very fine cricketer.

  • Gavin on July 16, 2014, 11:40 GMT

    Believe me Yorkshire fans were not hoping Lancashire would win. A Yorkshireman has 2 hopes; that Yorkshire win and Lancashire lose. A Notts win doesn't matter, because if Yorkshire are win the title this year they'll have to win games themselves, including beating Notts at Trent Bridge. Our destiny is in our hands. But Lancashire's destiny isn't.

  • David on July 16, 2014, 11:26 GMT

    @ SirBobJones ... I am not sure about Joe Root as future England captain as he seems to lack both charisma and toughness (perhaps I am unfair, and simply judging him on the fact that he looks about twelve). But the idea of Read as skipper captain for the rest of the season is absolutely wonderful.

  • Daniel on July 16, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    @SirBobJones, the only reason I would scoff at you would be if you'd put a lot of money on this. Chris Read is the best keeper in the country. England should have stuck with him, but their loss has been Notts' gain.

  • Pete on July 16, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    Congratulations to Nottinghamshire on a hard fought win in a thrilling game. As an avid Lancashire fan i wonder how big a blow this game will have on Lancashire's quest for survival. Our 2 wins have come against Northant's and although we have gotten close recently in this game and against Durham we are still lacking a win in the championship against any of the teams above us. A win against Durham in our next fixture looks now to be a must and i'm not sure whether 3 of the remaining 4 games being at home actually helps us. On the flip side 3 of the remaining games are against teams 'around us' in the table.Regardless of the outcome it will be interesting to see the clubs approach to the batting woes that have had such a major impact on the season. Paul Horton needs an opening partner. Ashwell Prince is retiring and Usman Khawaja has only committed, i think, till the end of this season. Is it possible to pick up 3 top quality batsmen in time next season

  • ian on July 16, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    @ glance_to_leg on (July 15, 2014, 20:30 GMT): you are absolutely correct in my informed opinion.

  • ian on July 16, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    "Brobdingnagian figure of Fletcher" Great use of the written language - I'm not sure I can say it though, especially late at night! Isn't it curious that these out-grounds so often produce the best cricket, as observed in this report? Another great piece, Mr Edwards! Thank you.

  • Bob on July 16, 2014, 4:15 GMT

    Chris Read should be England's 'keeper and captain in the short-term till Root is ready to captain. Cook should stay as opener. Prior can be a batsman if his form warrants it. Scoff at me if you will, but stranger things have been done before.

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