Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Nottinghamshire 472 (Slater 142, Duckett 116, Mullaney 67, Clarke 57) drew with Lancashire 173 (Croft 59, Trego 3-33) and 120 for 0 (Davies 69*)
After a couple of days in which they had looked likely to finish third in a two-horse race Lancashire's cricketers finally located their capacity for resistance on the final afternoon of this game. As though offering a counterpoint to their team's first innings, Lancashire's openers, Keaton Jennings and Alex Davies, batted with untroubled ease on a pitch tranquilised by the heavy roller to share an unbroken stand of 120. The gentle serenity of the cricket in the evening session at Trent Bridge mocked the frenetic tumble of wickets 24 hours earlier.
Davies was comfortably the more fluent and finished the match on 69 not out, his second fifty in five innings. Jennings has yet to find his best form; his unbeaten 37 was his first score above 18 in the Bob Willis Trophy. But both batsmen may have viewed the final hour of this match as decent practice for the Roses game, which begins on Saturday. Spectators or no spectators, the atmosphere at Headingley will be livelier than it was when this match was brought safely into harbour just before five o'clock. At that point the draw was agreed and the players bumped elbows or whatever cricketers do in these Covidian times.
Nottinghamshire took 16 points from the game to Lancashire's nine and the division is an accurate reflection of the teams' cricket over the first two innings. When the visitors were dismissed for 173 an hour and a half into the morning, the deficit was 299 and there was a minimum of 67 overs left in the match. A couple of quick wickets either side of lunch and the fourth evening may have been as lively as the third. It is occasionally tempting and almost always an error to think that the outcome to any cricket match has been inevitable all along.
It helped the Lancastrian cause, of course, that it took Steven Mullaney's bowlers most of the morning session to take Lancashire's last four wickets. The principal credit for that should go Steven Croft, who will have seen many mornings like the one which greeted him at Trent Bridge today. But then in his 16 years with Lancashire's first team Croft has seen every type of morning. The enriching wonder of it is that he seems to approach each of them with an enthusiasm not too dissimilar from that his seventh-wicket partner, 22-year-old Tom Hartley, who was playing in his second first-class match.
As if to show how straightforward it was to stay in on this pitch Croft and Hartley batted without great alarm for nearly an hour. The impression of blithe progress was shattered, though, when Croft received a deliciously evil bouncer from Tom Barber and could only fend it to the substitute fielder, Liam Patterson-White, in the gully. By then, though, Blackpool's finest had batted for 157 minutes and faced 114 balls to make his third fifty in four first-class innings
The most entertaining moment of the morning was then provided by the usually faultless operators of Trent Bridge's giant scoreboard when Luke Wood came out to play his first innings against his old county. In a rare lapse the board featured a huge picture of Wood in his old Nottinghamshire clobber, although perhaps this was an attempt to unsettle the batsman by reminding him of his recent perfidy.
Since Wood is carrying a hamstring injury and already had his skipper, Dane Vilas, running for him, this destabilisation might have been unnecessary. In any event he poked around for 25 minutes before skying a low full toss from Barber to Ben Slater at short leg. Seven balls later Tom Bailey and Liam Hurt had gone as well and Hartley had run out of partners having batted longer and faced more balls than anyone else in the innings except Croft. He at least can look back on this game with pride as he travels home. It has probably not occurred to him that both sides will almost certainly need to win their final two games to have any chance of qualifying for the final of this competition.