Notts show impressive fortitude after Taylor shock
Nottinghamshire 446 (Mullaney 113, Patel 85, Wessels 81, Read 63*, Rampaul 5-93) and 172 for 7 (Smith 54, T Curran 4-58) beat Surrey 225 (Bird 4-56) and 389 (Harinath 137, Sangakkara 83, Ball 5-98) by three wickets
Spike Milligan used to tell a story about a time when he was suffering from a bout of depression. Lying in bed and crying uncontrollably, he was brought a glass of water by his young daughter. She knew it wouldn't help, but she wanted to try and couldn't think of anything else to offer.
Perhaps this Nottinghamshire victory might be viewed in the same light. A club reeling from the news that James Taylor's career is not only over, but that he must undergo heart surgery in the next couple of days knows that, in the grand scheme of things, the result of a game of cricket does not amount to much. But they wanted to do what they could for him and have nothing else to give besides good wishes and encouraging performances You can be quite sure this result raised a smile from Taylor.
It was, in the end, a victory that owed much to the fortitude and character of a team struggling to come to terms with the sad news they had received. Facing a target of 169 on a pitch that remained encouraging for seamers, they slipped form 72 without loss to 100 for 5 before rallying.
Jake Ball, a much improved seamer who will surely be pushing for England recognition in the coming months, completed the second five-wicket haul of his first-class career in the morning and hit the winning runs in the evening, while Greg Smith, a former team-mate of Taylor at Leicestershire as well as Nottinghamshire, registered his highest score for the club in first-class cricket.
"As soon as we found out about James we said we've got to win him a trophy," Ball said afterwards. "He's an exceptional talent and it's sad that it's all been taken away from him.
"He's been a massive part of this club for a few years. What we can do is put wins on the board and trophies in the cabinet for him."
Ball must have thought his work was over when he helped polish off the Surrey innings in the morning session. While Sam Curran - surely a fine batsman in the making - contributed five sweetly-struck boundaries, he was trapped in front by one that nipped back and Arun Harinath's admirable resistance was ended when he was lured into reaching for a drive and edged to the cordon. He had batted on every day of the match and didn't deserve to be on the losing side.
The Nottinghamshire chase began smoothly. Mullaney, who looks in glorious form, and the more careful Smith reached 72 in 14 overs. But when Mullaney was trapped in front, the next four batsman added just eight between them.
Tom Curran, finding life and movement from a good length, claimed three wickets in seven balls without conceding a run at one stage as Michael Lumb edged one angled across him, Brendan Taylor was taken on the glove by a brute of a ball and Riki Wessels edged one that bounced and left him. It was, by any standards, outstanding bowling.
Smith, however, stood firm. So grim had his red-ball form been - this was his first score above 20 in 13 Championship innings and his first half-century in 24 first-class innings dating back to September 2014 - that one national newspaper left him out of their fantasy league options at the start of the season.
But he has worked hard with Peter Moores - the consultant coach at Nottinghamshire - in recent months and demonstrated a sound defence and calm head in a crisis. It took a peach of a delivery, bouncing and nipping away from a good length, to find his edge.
By then, Nottinghamshire were still 17 short and left with a tail that were blown away in the first innings. But Brett Hutton produced two sumptuous on drives and Ball kept his head to see their side over the line. Nottinghamshire took 24 points and Surrey just four.
There was encouragement here for Surrey, though. They left themselves too much ground to make up after a poor start to the game with bat and ball but showed spirit and skill in clawing their way back into it.
They also showed - if we did not know before - that they have at least two outstanding young cricketers in Ben Foakes and Tom Curran. To out-keep Chris Read, as Foakes did in this match, is a rare achievement, while Tom Curran produced a series of beautiful deliveries to precipitate a Nottinghamshire collapse.
This was a mixed debut for Ravi Rampaul, though. After three years out of the first-class game, he was understandably rusty and looked as if he were carrying a few more pounds - or even stone - than can be ideal for a professional sportsman. Ravi Ample one wag called him; Ravi Rampall-you-can-eat another retorted.
He retains enviable skills, though. While some of his wickets may have owed a little to fortune - Samit Patel, slashing without foot movement, edged a long-hop to slip and Read and Steven Mullaney may have felt the balls that trapped them leg before were passing down the leg side - he can move the ball both ways. The donation of 26 in no-balls though (Ravi no-ball was another nickname) was costly in such a tight game. He will, no doubt, improve for the experience.
Surrey were also hampered by the decision not to bowl Sam Curran. They were, perhaps, keen not to over-burden a young man in such a tight situation, though he has given every indication to date of relishing the heat of the battle.
"We made it very difficult for ourselves over the first four or five sessions of the game," Gareth Batty admitted. "You can't get that far behind against a very good team and Notts are a proven team. We gave ourselves too big a hill to climb but it was a pretty good effort to try and turn it around."
There is no lack of talent in his Surrey team. Their Championship season may well be defined by how quickly they can adapt to the greater discipline required in the top division. The pace at which they improved in this game may, despite the result, offer cause for optimism.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo