Nottinghamshire 239 and 42 for 2 need a further 397 runs to beat Hampshire 310 and 365 for 5 dec (Northeast 130, Rahane 119)
A scorebook is cricket's public record and its private music. In addition to being a bald statement of facts, the entries conjure a host of images and recollections. Thus in bleak, rain-haunted winters men may glance at Wisden or a yearbook and see this:
AM Rahane b Carter 119
It will be barely a tug on memory's thread but suddenly there will be cover drives and cuts through gully; there will be a light-footed skip down the pitch and a whip though midwicket; there will be punches through the V and a portcullised close-to-the-body discipline which makes all else possible. And yes, there will be Newclose in its week of jubilee. Just so, folk might say, that was the afternoon when a jewel of a cricket ground was treated to the innings it deserved.
Their memories will not have played them false. Steven Mullaney's hundred on the second day of this game was a triumph of the will. Ajinkya Rahane's century was an exposition of art and a succession of cultured skills. But already many Hampshire supporters and even some Kent ones will be gently simmering. "What of Sam Northeast?" they may be asking, and the query is very fair. For the glory of this day was that the crowd saw two batsmen at something near the peak of their current powers.
Playing with an ease which ignored the apparent eccentricities of this pitch, Rahane and Northeast put on 257 in 61 overs. They thus set a new third-wicket partnership record for matches between these counties, beating the 238 added by John Crawley and Michael Clarke at Trent Bridge in 2004. That is another memory, of course, and one probably shared by some of those at Newclose.
But the locals know that this rather private corner of England has been visited by fine cricketers before. Worcestershire were the visitors on the last occasion first-class cricket was played on the Isle of Wight. The match took place at Cowes in 1962 and a line in that scorebook reads as follows:
TW Graveney c Ingleby-Mackenzie b Shackleton 0.
Poets labour into the still night without writing a line of comparable resonance. For thus in a time within memory did two of the game's supreme artists sandwich one of its greatest playboy-captains. Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie kept wicket in that match; maybe for a bet. It was late May, just before Epsom, and Larkspur's Derby.
The previous year Ingleby-Mackenzie had purloined a hundred off Essex at Cowes and four years before that Derek Shackleton had taken 13 wickets for 135 when Nottinghamshire last visited the Island. But then not many could cope with Shack…
JD Clay c Harrison b Shackleton 13.
For nearly two sessions this Wednesday there were no lines to write in the spaces reserved in the wickets columns. And so while Rahane and Northeast's stand delighted Hampshire supporters who faithfully recorded every run in their books, it rather dispirited Nottinghamshire's cricketers, who had hoped their England pace bowlers, Stuart Broad and Jake Ball, would cause problems.
"The pitch has got a wicket in it," Mullaney said on Tuesday evening as he looked forward to this third day. One doubts he meant just the one, but Broad's removal of Oli Soames in the second over of the morning was all the Bassetlaw diehards had to comfort them for nearly five hours until Rahane played no shot to an offspinner from Matt Carter in the over before tea.
Just the other side of the Victoria sponge Northeast skied Mullaney to Broad at deep mid-on and was dismissed for 130.
SA Northeast c Broad b Mullaney 130
He and Rahane had kept in step like a pair of Lipizzaners throughout their stand so perhaps Northeast's departure was not a great shock. In his next over Mullaney bowled Aneurin Donald for 3 with one that kept low and he celebrated with all the effusiveness of a man buying a postage stamp. He knew his side would have to bat long merely to secure a draw on this pitch.
Before that ordeal began, however, Tom Alsop and Ian Holland enjoyed their complete freedom to attack the bowling and scored 88 runs in 11 overs after which Northeast declared. Required to bat 15 overs with survival their only goal, Nottinghamshire lost both Ben Duckett and Ben Slater inside nine overs as both Keith Barker and Fidel Edwards made good use of the new ball. There are only two results possible on the final day and this pitch is renowned for taking spin late in a game.
All these things encouraged home supporters as they caught the No3 bus back to Newport this evening. But maybe what gave them even greater happiness was the memory of two batsmen making batting appear both straightforward and graceful. They will recall Rahane driving Luke Fletcher through mid-on for his first boundary and then stroking Ball through the covers half an hour later.
When Carter was brought on at the Carisbrooke End, Rahane cover-drove an over-pitched delivery to the boundary; he then late-cut Carter for three as he dragged his length back. Northeast followed the melody and was soon batting as confidently as his partner. He was dropped once, on 81, when Carter failed to pick up the line of an edge at slip chance off Ball. But that memory had faded by the time spectators left Newclose for the penultimate time this summer. Suddenly it seemed many hours since two peregrine falcons had banked effortlessly in the morning breeze and hovered above spectators grappling with their daily papers while cricketers practised in the nets. Among the players was Ajinkya Rahane, honing the disciplines he required for the day ahead.