Franks critical of pitch after Gloucestershire escape with draw
Gloucestershire 303 (Roderick 96) and 254 for 5 (van Buuren 88*, Dent 71) drew with Nottinghamshire 535 for 8 dec (Patel 257*, Pujara 67)
After 11-and-a-half sessions and 374 overs of cricket, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire had only managed two-and-a-half innings. Just 23 wickets fell on a pitch that, in the words of Nottinghamshire assistant coach Paul Franks, "makes a mockery of what good cricket should be about". It was hard not to agree with his sentiment, or his disappointment.
Nottinghamshire were undoubtedly the better side over the course of four days, of that there was no question. But Gloucestershire, too, fought to bring quality to the game. Both were hamstrung by a pitch that offered no carry through to the keeper, no pace on to the bat and little off the straight. It asked a lot of bowler, batsman and spectator. Such surfaces do more damage to the County Championship than any city-based Twenty20 competition might.
In the end, the hosts were able to negotiate a draw with relative ease, even if things looked precarious when they lost Cameron Bancroft to the second ball of their second innings and were then reduced to 35 for 3 four overs into the final day. Franks, though, expected nothing less after Notts had beaten Gloucestershire by an innings and 50 runs at Trent Bridge a fortnight ago.
"We knew before we got here [what to expect from the pitch]," he said. "Let's not kid ourselves. No matter what anybody says about it, after having beaten them comprehensively on a pitch which had some pace, carry and bounce, we didn't expect to come here and see a pitch that did the same.
"It makes a mockery of what good cricket should be about. That's just my personal opinion. I feel very strongly about it. It's not a criticism about anyone in particular - it's a criticism and an observation of having been in the game for over 20 years. You look at the way the wickets had fallen during the game. The pitch dictated terms. That's a shame. It should be the players that are allowed to perform on that surface. And that wasn't a surface suitable for a good-quality game."
It was just as bad for Gloucestershire's attack, who deserve credit for showing up for work if this is what greets them each morning. With that in mind, it was worth singling out Craig Miles for his 29 overs in Nottinghamshire's first innings that produced an array of half-chances which, on a more conducive pitch, might have better rewarded him than his eventual figures of 2 for 88.
"The frustrating thing for me is that when the ball is not carrying to the wicketkeeper, that cannot be an acceptable situation for four-day cricket to be played," Franks said. "Four-day cricket should be a game of skill, where seam bowlers and spin bowlers are in play and batsmen can score runs. If you bowl well then all good. If you don't bowl well, you'll get scored off.
"That's the way four-day cricket should be played. But this wasn't even a good pitch for batting: 80 runs a session on average, two wickets a session on average. It's there for everybody to see. It's a little bit raw for us in the dressing room at the minute. But if these are the things we have to face, we have to find a way to be better, game on game."
It was unclear whether the pitch will be reported - although the whispers were that it was deemed unsatisfactory. The weather leading up to this fixture meant preparation time was limited. Nevertheless, cricket was not the winner.
With Kent drawing and Worcestershire suffering defeat at the hands of Glamorgan, Nottinghamshire were looking to extend their lead at the top of Division Two, looking for nine more wickets for a valuable win. Within 10 minutes they had two of them. Harry Gurney, operating around the wicket to right-handers, trapped both Will Tavare and Gareth Roderick in front. Roderick was the wicket that stood out: any repeat of his first innings vigilance of 215-balls would take Gloucestershire closer to the draw they craved.
While he could only see out eight balls this time, Chris Dent took the mantle of frustrater-in-chief. His, though, was not an innings of full-blooded defiance: classy shots through extra cover and point ensured he reached his half-century from 115-balls, as the hosts went into lunch on 100 for 3, trailing by 132.
He continued on his merry way after lunch, prompting Chris Read, no more than 25-minutes into the second session, to turn to Riki Wessels, who has just one County Championship wicket to his name (Sussex's Luke Wells, caught and bowled in 2012). It was Wessel's first bowl since 2013 and perhaps had the desired effect. While his two overs offered little beyond novelty, it might have drawn Dent into a bit of carelessness. Brett Hutton replaced Gurney at the Pavilion End and, third ball of his new spell, tempted Dent to play a grim shot across the line and strike him in front for 71.
Graeme van Buuren was keen not to let a golden opportunity to put on a score pass him by. Learning from Dent's misjudgement, he played correctly all the way through, bringing up his half-century from 170-balls with his fifth boundary - a back-foot punch through cover. The most outlandish shot he played was a threaded two through a busy leg-side field. There was time for Cheteshwar Pujara to turn his arm over as Read called on an eighth bowler. To describe what he sent down as legspin would be meeting him more than half-way.
And so Read continued: when he took the second new ball after 80 overs and gave it to Luke Fletcher, it was the 17th bowling change he had made in the day. That brought the final wicket to fall: Phil Mustard slashing to Jake Libby at point, at the start of the 83rd over. Other than a handful of near-misses - lbw appeals, the odd outside edge beaten - there was little else to play for. Even van Buuren, patient for 242 balls and 88 runs, was more than happy to shake hands within sight of an 11th first-class century.
The only real moment of note was when Gurney and Fletcher were substituted off the field for James Pattinson and Stuart Broad. It might have been a different game had they been on from the start. Both had a little jog and a bowl before the start of play ahead of the Royal London One-Day Cup knockout match against Somerset, just down the road at Taunton. They go there frustrated with "just" an 11-point lead at the top of Division Two.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport