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Nottingham, May 18 - 21, 2023, County Championship Division One
298 & 362/8d
(T:219) 442 & 97/4

Match drawn


Alastair Cook's Trent Bridge best lays foundation for Essex

Former England captain makes 72, his highest first-class score at venue

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
Alastair Cook looks on as Stuart Broad bowls, Nottinghamshire vs Essex, Trent Bridge, 1st day, LV= County Championship, May 18, 2023

Alastair Cook looks on as Stuart Broad bowls for Nottinghamshire  •  Getty Images

Nottinghamshire 13 for 0 trail Essex 298 (Cook 72, Westley 66, Hutton 4-69) by 285 runs
Trent Bridge has been sent more love-letters than Marilyn Monroe ever received and today this perfect old ground received a few more, not all of them from the cricketers. At first, though, one came from Alastair Cook, whose overtures were as gracious as one might expect; his 72 was studded with the strokes he has often played at Nottingham when wearing England colours. Later in the day the blandishments of Stuart Broad and Brett Hutton were brusquer, the pair sharing seven wickets, four with the second new ball, as Essex were dismissed for 298, two runs short of a second bonus point. And this rich day finally ended with a straight-driven boundary from Haseeb Hameed.
But perhaps it was bound to be Trent Bridge that offered us comfort after the bum-numbing, brain-buggered tedium of Lancashire's draw with Somerset at Emirates Old Trafford on Sunday. We had three sessions packed tight with fine things at Nottingham and although some of these may seem extraneous to the cricket, the folk in the Radcliffe Road Stand know it isn't so.
For example, the scorecards are actually made of card rather than the reinforced lavatory paper that some counties currently deem sufficient. And the teams printed thereon are a close approximation to the elevens that take the field rather than a press officer's postmodernist entry for the Booker Prize. This morning they told us that Calvin Harrison would be making his first-class debut for Nottinghamshire and that Ben Duckett was absent from the home side. We later discovered that having made 401 runs in nine innings since April 6, Duckett had been withdrawn by the ECB, presumably to avoid him collapsing with chronic fatigue.
Such an appalling fate has not yet befallen Broad and almost the first entry the conscientious spectators could make on their crisp cards today was to record the dismissal of Nick Brown, leg before wicket for 11 when half forward in the fifth over. Sadly, Broad claimed his victim without appealing to umpire O'Shaughnessy for his judgement, a practice that never fails to look graceless and which will no doubt inspire hundreds of imitations in junior cricket across the country.
But such things could not mar our morning. Cook, who only faced six balls in his old mucker's five-over opening spell, appears to be batting with greater freedom in his latter days and he milked three off-side fours off Hutton and Dane Paterson in the first hour. At the other end, Westley, watchful as a cat in a rat-alley, picked up ones and twos for 70 balls before he straight drove Broad to the pavilion boundary three overs before lunch.
The pair continued in a similar vein on the resumption. The day was balmy and windless and it appeared we were set for a batting afternoon with Cook enlisting his formidable powers of patience and concentration to help Essex build something formidable. Ben Slater dropped Westley at long leg off Dane Paterson when the Essex skipper was on 40 and we thought the home side could not afford such laxity. It turned out they could.
Six overs later, Cook tried to drive a wideish ball from the same bowler and Harrison marked his debut with a good two handed-catch to his left. Then just as Westley was beginning to dominate Steven Mullaney's attack, he bottom-edged an attempted pull off Paterson and splayed his stumps much as a drunken driver scatters bollards. Sharp as ever to sense an opening, Nottinghamshire's bowlers took two more wickets in the next half hour although they had help from their opponents. Dan Lawrence came down the wicket to Hutton and then feathered his drive to Joe Clarke behind the stumps. It was a funky "england23" shot and uncharitable spectators might have observed that Lawrence would have done better to think what Essex needed today rather than what Ben Stokes might want in three weeks' time. Either way, it was a shabby effort. Two overs later, Matt Critchley meekly followed a ball from Hutton and Essex repaired to the pavilion on 205 for 5.
The paradox was that Essex's fresh batsmen needed the 20-minute break rather more than Nottinghamshire's tired bowlers. On the resumption, most of the home attack overpitched and both Adam Rossington and Simon Harmer gave such deliveries serious rumpo. The pair had biffed ten fours in their 75-run stand for the seventh wicket when Broad took the new ball and arrowed one into the pads of Harmer who walked without waiting to be told he should. We had thus had a day on which neither bowler nor batsman had required an umpire's decision. Maybe O'Shaughnessy should apply for an unemployment benefit of some sort.
Harmer's dismissal marked the day's final shift. Essex lost their last five wickets for 28 runs in less than ten overs, a conclusion to the day's cricket that most of those at Trent Bridge welcomed warmly. They know this is the best Test venue at which to watch county cricket and Nottingham's position in the hierarchy is questioned only by the deep-dyed at other venues.
This might produce a perverse determination on the part of some neutrals to resist its charms but such a resolve would be useless. One sight of the old pavilion or the uniform white-painted seats and we become soft clay in the hands of those who entered into the inheritance of this place and built it with love. It was really no coincidence that we noticed O'Shaughnessy and Tom Lungley walking round the boundary just before the toss this morning. They might have been beating the bounds of a medieval parish.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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