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George Dobell at New Road
August 28, 2009
Worcestershire 334 for 242 for 6 dec (Moeen 84*, Davies 76) drew with Nottinghamshire 219 and 351 for 7 (Brown 84, Read 70*, Patel 55, Hales 55, Jones 4-105)
The result may have frustrated both sides, but those fortunate enough to be at New Road for the final day of this Championship match enjoyed a thrilling game of cricket.
All results were possible with just three deliveries remaining. Nottinghamshire, requiring 21 off the final over, reduced the equation to ten off the final three balls before finally falling seven runs short.
But Worcestershire will also feel unfortunate. Though Steven Davies equalled the club's Championship record for the most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in an innings - six - it may be that he remembers the 'one that got away' more. Had he been able to cling on to a regulation edge from Ali Brown when the batsman had 55, Worcestershire may have gone on to secure the win they so desperately needed.
Perhaps Worcestershire delayed their declaration too long. After overnight rain pushed back the start by 45 minutes, the hosts batted for another 40 minutes before setting Nottinghamshire 358 to win in 74 overs. For a side that needed to win to retain hopes of surviving in the division, it did seem an oddly defensive tactic.
After a dreadful start, Nottinghamshire did well to go so close. Sustaining their grim run at the top of the order - they have managed only one half-century opening partnership in the whole championship season - they were two down by the end of the first over.
Scott Newman, who is still trying to earn a contract for next season, is in particularly poor form. Here he suffered his third duck in five Championship innings, slashing an edge to the keeper. Mark Wagh, caught off the glove, followed four balls later, as he tried to avoid a short ball.
Samit Patel and Alex Hales, both timing the ball sweetly, added 79 in 15 overs to put the innings back on track, but when Patel edged a cut and Hales was drawn into playing at a fine ball that bounced from the impressive Richard Jones, it was Worcestershire who had the upper hand.
However, Brown and Chris Read added 115 in 26 overs to revive their side's hopes. As the ball lost its shine, batting became increasingly comfortable and Brown unveiled a series of ferocious drives. Yet, with hard work seemingly done, Nottinghamshire meandered for a while. Having cut the target to manageable proportions - 135 off 20 overs - they adopted a more defensive approach and scored only 41 runs from the next 10 overs.
Brown, in particular, appeared disconcerted by the light rain and allowed himself to lose concentration at a time when the game was at their mercy.
Perhaps the increased prize money in this year's competition was partially responsible for their curious tactics in mid afternoon. The second-placed side this year will win £225,000 - more than last year's winners - which might act as a disincentive to the chasing pack.
It was the introduction of Moeen Ali's offspin that reinvigorated the chase. Read, especially, relished Moeen's bowling, plundering 31 off a two-over spell and putting his side right back in the chase.
That left Nottinghamshire requiring 94 from the last 10 overs. Though Brown finally drove to mid-on, Read, with support from the hard-hitting Andre Adams, brought the requirement down to 61 off six, 32 off three and, finally, an unlikely 21 from the last.
When Gareth Andrew started it by giving away four wides (five runs), it looked as if Nottinghamshire might yet steal it. But with eight men on the boundary, it proved impossible to pierce the field again.
The result leaves Nottinghamshire's title hopes all but dead. After no wins from their last eight games, they now trial Durham by 29 points having played a game more. It will take a miracle to catch them.
For Worcestershire, this result all but confirmed their relegation. By the end of this round of games they will be more than 60 points adrift of safety and, having not won a first-class game for year, are hardly in a great run of form.
There were some encouraging signs for them from this game, however. Their inexperienced seam attack acquitted themselves well, while a couple of the younger batsmen also impressed. The future isn't exactly golden, but perhaps it's not quite so grim as has been suggested.
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