Nottinghamshire 304 and 178 for 4 (Read 71) drew with Lancashire 384 and 234 for 6 dec (Horton 60, du Plessis 53*)
After looking set for a good finish, following an enterprising declaration by Luke Sutton, Lancashire's match against Nottinghamshire faded away into a draw on a pitch that, even after four days, did not provide enough assistance for the bowlers. A classic over from Dominic Cork, where he claimed three wickets, gave the home side brief hope of victory, but they were unable to maintain their advantage and Nottinghamshire finished comfortably on 178 for 4.
Lancashire, 146 for 4 overnight, with Faf du Plessis and Steven Croft at the crease, began with an air of briskness that was a little deceptive. The batsmen couldn't find the boundary, and finally a lofted drive from Croft off Graeme Swann found the fielder at a fairly deep mid-on instead. The first hour brought 57 runs, which was probably below the target. Sutton settled in before beginning to open up, while du Plessis reached his 50 off 82 balls.
Sutton surprised most people by declaring more than half an hour before lunch, as he lofted a catch to cover and was dismissed for 38, leaving du Plessis unbeaten on 53. One observer said, quite seriously, that it was the most positive declaration he had seen from Lancashire in years. Certainly it left Nottinghamshire with an interest in the game, as they were set 315 runs in a minimum of 73 overs, and set up the match for an interesting afternoon.
Nottinghamshire handled the six overs before lunch confidently, scoring 32 without loss, mostly off the wayward Sajid Mahmood. Paul Franks was sent in to open with Will Jefferson, whose regular partner Matt Wood had been forced off the field just before the declaration after taking a powerful blow in the back at short leg. With Adam Voges also injured, this may have been a factor in prompting Sutton's early declaration.
Cork again took centre stage, although perhaps pushed the boundaries with some of his appealing. He put up a major performance when shouting for a catch at the wicket when Jefferson hooked on 12, celebrating noisily with his team-mates without even looking at the umpire, who had not moved his finger.
Jefferson swung Keedy for six over midwicket, but then moved across his stumps to be trapped lbw by the rampant Cork for 26. Then Mark Wagh was caught down the leg side second ball, but the best was yet to come. Next was the ball of the day, a superb inswinger that Samit Patel could only edge onto his stumps. Cork had taken three wickets in four balls, and this one over shattered all Nottinghamshire's hopes of victory.
Franks and Chris Read now concentrated on survival, and they successfully steadied a very shaky ship. They survived almost until tea, when Franks fell for 42 to the leg-spin of du Plessis, Lancashire's second spinner in this match. Franks deserved great credit for the way he handled his unaccustomed role, but his departure brought in Voges, nursing a painful hand.
However, it proved to be the last wicket of the day. Rather strangely, Cork was not brought back for a second spell until after tea, without success. The pitch was just a little too placid and a potentially good fizzled out into a rather dull draw, as Read (71) and Voges (19) comfortably batted out time against bowlers without the inspiration or assistance to do further damage.
Sutton, whose declaration was about as well-timed as could have been expected without the benefit of hindsight, called it a day with 11 overs still to go. Nottinghamshire were left grateful that their middle order, after failing them in the first innings, had now come to their rescue. The atmosphere on the field was not always pleasant during the four days, and the umpires could have been a little more proactive in encouraging the right spirit.
Faf du Plessis
Lancashire vs Notts
County Championship Division One