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Nottingham, September 10 - 12, 2019, Specsavers County Championship Division One
304 & 259
(T:440) 124 & 212

Kent won by 227 runs


Darren Stevens' tour de force completes another Notts rout

Nottinghamshire's season might yet be saved somewhat by T20 Finals Day but their Championship cricket has been desperate

Darren Stevens gets to the bowling crease  •  Getty Images

Darren Stevens gets to the bowling crease  •  Getty Images

Kent 304 (Stevens 88) and 259 (Billings 100, Crawley 82, Ashwin 5-89) beat Nottinghamshire 124 (Stevens 5-39) and 212 (Stevens 5-53) by 227 runs
England's coach Trevor Bayliss made a rare incursion into the politics of England's professional game this week by suggesting the number of counties should be slimmed down to as few as ten. Inscrutable for so long behind those shades and floppy hat, it turns out he is just the latest employee in high office to adopt the clandestine corporate agenda. And there I was thinking that when he finally did speak out it would be something incredibly original.
For nearly half a century, somebody connected to a beaten England set-up has conveniently cast the blame upon county cricket. Bayliss' status and record means his opinion intrinsically has weight. But when Gareth Southgate pondered whether 92 professional football clubs competing in a democratic system (well, fairly democratic if you ignore the financial imbalance and the parachute payments) might not be sustainable it was to propose a more enlightened debt-free future not a wholesale cull.
"Having fewer teams would help… surely the competition would be stiffer," Bayliss mused. But there is a divisional set-up in the Championship and that divisional set-up could be expanded across all competitions. Lots could still be done to condense the most talented players together. And by preserving 18 professional counties a game made more widely available would discover, nurture and develop more players.
Instead, only cricket - or at least only cricket people whose entire thoughts surround the England team - imagines that contracting the game would be a good long-term thing. Even Margaret Thatcher, 40 years ago, knew that by closing the mines because they were losing money the eventual outcome would be no more coal. Cut the counties and you'll get fewer players.
So anyway, the point is this: that's you gone then, Kent. You might just have thrashed Nottinghamshire by 227 runs by tea on the third day, you might be making an impressive fist of your return to Division One for the first time in nine years, you might be reviving memories of your great years, but you're so lost in your traditional way of thinking that you imagined winning and losing actually has anything to do with it. You poor deluded fools.
As for Darren Stevens, who took for 10 for 92 in the match, only the second 10-wicket haul of his career, not forgetting his 88 in Kent's first innings, you're 43 for heaven's sake. That's no good for England; your boundless commitment, great technical skill and shining example to anybody who feels middle age is upon them is not about to save you.
As for Nottinghamshire, they were pitiful. It's extraordinary how a coach as driven and organised and awash with team ethic as Peter Moores has found himself in charge of a side that in Championship cricket singularly fails to display those virtues. That's nine defeats and three draws in 12 matches, relegation is inevitable and there are now only two matches left to try to win one. Moores has yet to sign a new contract, but if he can't sort it out, it is hard to know who can.
But at least Notts have another T20 finals day. Their T20 nights are great occasions and they also have Trent Bridge, a ground fit for the modern age even if the Wetherspoons pub out the back is an intrusive reminder of the politics that is consuming us. Under the Bayliss theory, Notts would survive. They could lose until the end of time; they could survive entirely by pilfering players from Derbyshire and Leicestershire (not that they would actually exist anymore) and they would still be valued in the Bayliss shake-up.
At least Duncan Fletcher occasionally made unannounced visits to county cricket, although not as many as he liked people to think. He was the one occasionally seen glowering by the sightscreen, surrounding himself by a leave-me-alone force field to dissuade some old bloke from wandering up to ask him if he knew whether the tea room was open. Bayliss prefers to look at the data and watch an entire round of Championship matches on one of those nifty new apps that can reduce the essence of every game to about 35 seconds.
Come to think of it, 35 seconds would probably be enough to get the gist about Nottinghamshire's second-innings collapse. Their target was 440 and, believe it or not, a spectator in a Notts polo shirt and with a Corbyn-like grey beard, was heard to say as he entered the ground: "We're back in the match." Well, if you don't travel optimistically, it's best not to travel at all, but sifting the wisdom of greybeards is not always a useful exercise.
By lunch, Notts were 91 for 5 in 21.2 overs. Their state of mind was exemplified when a new opening pair strolled out. Instead of Jake Libby and Ben Slater, they presented Steven Mullaney, a captain in his first game back after a knee operation, and Ben Duckett.
The sight of Duckett playing those pootling defensive shots suggested that Notts might have decided to crash it. After a brief flurry, big inswingers from Stevens removed Mullaney (to a leave alone) and Chris Nash in the same over. Harry Podmore squeezed a good ball onto Duckett's stumps via his back forearm and he pootled off.
Libby, whose contract is up at the end of the season, and who still has not got his first-class average up to 30, came out at No. 4 with Slater at five. When Slater fell lbw to Stevens, he reached the landmark he had referenced the previous evening - 500 first-class wickets for Kent. Matt Milnes then bowled Libby with the final ball of the session.
When Tom Moores scythed a drive to point, Notts were six down for 108, but they finally rallied through Ravi Ashwin and Paul Coughlin which at least provided entertainment in the sunshine with a stand of 83 in 23 overs. The greybeard doubtless felt that victory was on again before they fell in successive overs, Coughlin to Stevens' outswinger, Ashwin essaying a curious two-footed leap in the crease before chipping a full ball to square leg. That Stevens should finish it all off with another outswerver (*I think that's what they called it when he started) was a perfect finale.
Considering that he had barely taken a wicket until he was 30 (at Leicestershire an ankle injury prevented him bowling), it is an extraordinary feat.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Notts Innings
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Specsavers County Championship Division One