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George Dobell at Edgbaston
July 21, 2010
Nottinghamshire 373 for 9 v Warwickshire 313
There were times during this innings when watching Mark Wagh bat was rather like watching a dry stone waller ply his craft. While it may be gratifying to see that the old skills survive, it doesn't always make for the most riveting spectacle.
For this was not the graceful, fluent Wagh that was once described (by Robert Brooke, the eminent historian and co-founder of the Association of Cricket Statisticians) as "the most joyous and magical batsman" of the last half-century at Edgbaston. This was Wagh building an innings run by run; Wagh the dogged; Wagh the determined and Wagh the technically watertight. They are not always qualities with which he has been associated.
But, in the context of this game, and perhaps the season, this was a magnificent innings. At 131 for 5, Nottinghamshire were struggling to remain on level terms with Warwickshire. More importantly, their bid to keep the pressure upon Yorkshire at the top of the table was in danger of faltering.
Yet, in partnership with the admirable Chris Read, Wagh added 156 in 42 overs for Nottinghamshire's sixth wicket. Not only was it a county record against this opposition, but it earned their team the initiative in a match that could go a long way towards deciding the destination of the championship.
Wagh will never now fulfil the potential his talent once suggested he might. He will never play for England and never become a household name. He leaves the game for a career in law midway through next season with a record that suggests he has been a good, rather than great, player.
Yet here he came to the crease at the end of the first over of the day and, on a pitch that continues to provide substantial help to the bowlers, gave not even the semblance of a half chance and remained unbeaten at stumps. There was none of the wafting outside off stump that has hindered the likes of Morgan or Cook, none of the leaden feet that have troubled Flintoff or Trescothick, no evidence of the gate between bat and pad that has damaged the prospects of Kieswetter or Denly and none of the playing across the line that has blighted Pietersen's career. It was, in short, faultless. It's very hard to think of a better English batsman who has not won a Test cap.
Wagh also accelerated dramatically. While his first 50 runs occupied an eye-watering 157 deliveries (despite a 36-over start, Read beat him to his half-century) , his next took just 59. Finally he unleashed some of those flowing cover drives that usually characterise his batting, as well as using his feet to skip down the wicket and deposit Imran Tahir's leg-spin for fours and a six. It was the 31st first-class century of Wagh's career, his third of the season (the second in the championship) and his second in two innings since returning to Edgbaston as a Nottinghamshire player.
For a man who felt disappointed at the way his Edgbaston career ebbed away in 2006, such feats make an eloquent point. Particularly at a time when Warwickshire's batsmen are struggling to hit the ball off the square. The only time Warwickshire thought they might have dismissed him in this game came when umpire Peter Willey reacted to a leg-before appeal by adjusting the sunglasses on top of his hat.
Read also batted splendidly. Much the more dynamic of the pair, he took a particular shine to Boyd Rankin, pulling a succession of long-hops with relish. Since his last Test, in January 2007, Read averages 57 in first-class cricket. He's also one of the best limited-overs 'finishers' in the county game and remains a 'keeper of the highest class. Aged 31, many younger men may have jumped in front of him in the England pecking order, but he still has a great deal to offer at international level.
The worth of their partnership was put into relief by what happened before and after. Samit Patel played-on to the sixth ball of the day, while Alex Hales' delightful innings (his 50 took just 50 balls) was ended when he edged his stab at a wide ball. David Hussey edged a steer at one he might have left, Mullaney bottom-edged a pull and Brown was beaten for pace by a full ball.
Then, after Carter, excellent at first but increasingly exhausted, made the breakthrough - Read following one angled wide across him and edging to slip - Notts threatened to fold quickly. Swann drove loosely at an outswinger and Broad, unrecognisable from the fellow who was once mentioned as a potential England number six, spooned a leading edge to midwicket. At the time Notts still trailed by 15 runs with just two wickets in hand.
But perhaps the killer blow was applied by Andre Adams. Just as Warwickshire thought they'd clawed their way back into the game, the New Zealander bludgeoned six fours and a six in a 26-ball cameo that consolidated Nottinghamshire's advantage. By the time he fell, Notts had added 242 for their last four wickets and built a lead of 60. On this pitch, that could well prove decisive.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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