Hales revives Nottinghamshire's prospects

Nottinghamshire 178 for 4 v Lancashire 319

Given that rivals Yorkshire and Somerset may have to settle for draws in their respective matches, Division One leaders Nottinghamshire have an opportunity to make a decisive break in the title race here, which makes the state of the match when rain brought a premature end to the second day all the more fascinating.

Lancashire, of course, are not out of contention themselves just yet, even if their prospects of leaping from fourth to first between now and September 16th require a healthy dose of optimism and some kind autumn weather.

Nottinghamshire clearly had the better of things on day two here but it was a day which demonstrated how quickly the picture can change on this ground, especially when the ball begins to swing. Alex Hales and Chris Read, the two batsmen at the crease overnight, have done much already to keep their side in the game but will have gone to bed aware that they will probably need to do as much again on day three if Nottinghamshire are to gain the upper hand.

With batting appreciably more difficult than it had appeared for much of the opening day, the unbeaten 87 from 21-year-old Hales that kept the leaders on an even keel as they sought to build a competitive reply to Lancashire's 319 was a brave effort, even if he did have luck on his side on at least two occasions.

He and Read had shared a partnership worth 84 when the rain sweeping up from the south arrived at tea. But with David Hussey gone and his replacement, Adam Voges, not due in England until next week, Nottinghamshire's batting is below strength and if the fifth-wicket pair are parted early on day three, Lancashire will fancy themselves to run through the rest without suffering too much damage.

As it stands, Nottinghamshire are still 141 behind, a margin which is no small matter. Knowing local conditions as they do, Nottinghamshire would have been more than happy to be close to 320 had they batted first.

Yet Lancashire, out for 319, ought to have had more, swing or no swing. Decent total though it might have been, it hid a substantial collapse, the measure of which can be gauged by the fact that, before Shivnarine Chanderpaul was out on Tuesday, they were 280 for 2.

But then they lost three wickets in eight balls during a calamitous last four overs on the first evening and continued on the same wobbly trajectory on the second morning, when they lost four more wickets in the space of 14 deliveries.

The sum consequence, adding the two catastrophic passages together, was that they gave away their last seven wickets for 27 runs in the space of 56 balls.

There was more success for Andre Adams, who laughed at being mentioned in the same breath as Sir Richard Hadlee, another New Zealander who did fairly well at Trent Bridge, on Monday evening, but can nonetheless be described nowadays as a fine bowler.

He finished with two wickets in two balls on Monday, and while he could not complete the hat-trick it was not long before he was acknowledging more compliments from his team-mates as Luke Sutton edged to third slip.

Ryan Sidebottom ended Mark Chilton's five-hour 67 with an uncontestable leg-before, after which Adams removed Saj Mahmood and Kyle Hogg with the first and last balls of the 100th over to finish with 6 for 79, his best figures for Nottinghamshire.

Now 35, Adams might consider his better years behind him, given that it is eight years since he won his only Test cap and three since the last of his appearances in the New Zealand one-day side. But lately he has flourished as a bowler with Nottinghamshire and his tally of 51 first-class wickets at 23.06 this year -- his best for one season -- follows 48 last summer. His dressing room neighbours at Trent Bridge might have more illustrious reputations but there is none who has made a more valuable contribution in the last couple of years.

The downside to shooting out their opponents so quickly was that Nottinghamshire faced 19 overs before lunch in the same humid, overcast conditions, against a Lancashire attack no less proficient than theirs at exploiting them.

It was no surprise that they lost Matt Wood, Mark Wagh and Samit Patel cheaply as Glen Chapple, Mahmood and Hogg took a wicket each, via two catches behind the stumps and one at second slip. Mahmood, who bowled a consistent line just outside off stump, might have had one or two more, with better luck.

But the bowling lacked enough discipline in the afternoon and Hales and the wily Ali Brown put on 57 before Mahmood made another breakthrough, bringing one back to trap the latter in front.

Hales, an opener who stands tall and bats straight, looks a decent prospect and packs a solid, attractive drive. He had some luck, though. He was dropped by Steven Croft at second slip on 78 off Tom Smith and by Smith at second slip off Hogg on 81. Hales acknowledged he had been fortunate, but also believes it could be a breakthrough innings in his first season as a regular in the Championship side.

"I made a hundred against Hampshire earlier in the season but this is a massive game for us in terms of the Championship and this has been the highlight of my season so far," he said. "If we can keep Lancashire from winning or even win it ourselves it will be a really valuable game.

"You are never really in at Trent Bridge and I was dropped a couple of times but I hope I can cash in now and help the team."

  • Nottinghamshire win brings title close

    Nottinghamshire took a giant stride towards winning their sixth County Championship and a second in six seasons after Lancashire's desperate attempt to keep their own outside chance alive offered Chris Read's side a route to victory that they were able to

  • Rain ruins Lancashire hopes

    It will almost certainly need a deal to be struck between Lancashire and Nottinghamshire to force a positive result in this match after the whole of the third day was lost to rain

  • Hales revives Nottinghamshire's prospects

    Given that rivals Yorkshire and Somerset may have to settle for draws in their respective matches, Division One leaders Nottinghamshire have an opportunity to make a decisive break in the title race here

  • Late wickets halt Lancashire's progress

    All was going well for Lancashire until the weather, which they customarily regard as the enemy at this time of year, exposed suspect concentration with a capricious burst of late-evening sunshine

Notts 4th innings Partnerships

1st20MJ WoodAD Hales
2nd3MA WaghAD Hales
3rd86SR PatelAD Hales
4th84AD BrownAD Hales
5th6AD BrownCMW Read
6th53AD BrownSJ Mullaney
7th0PJ FranksSJ Mullaney
8th9AR AdamsSJ Mullaney