A wicket built to last

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The Independent Online
In an ideal world - or, at least, in Ron Allsopp's ideal world - this Test will be distinguished by some wonderful feats of batsmanship on both sides and will be won by England's spinners, preferably on day five.

After Michael Atherton's performance at Nottingham yesterday, it might happen and nothing would delight Allsopp more. He will be 65 next month and, following 22 years in charge of the Trent Bridge square, he retires at the end of the season. This Test wicket is therefore his last.

If it is turning square by Sunday, all the better. Allsopp made his name by pushing at the limits of legitimacy during Nottinghamshire's golden Eighties, when Clive Rice and Richard Hadlee held sway. The last thing he wanted was a quiet, anonymous finish.

Not surprisingly, the pitch found favour with Atherton, who was making his third Test century here. "It will probably be good for the whole five days," the England captain said. "I'm disappointed that we lost four wickets in a session, but we're still in a good position and we will be aiming to put at least 400 on the board."

For Allsopp, it had been an entirely routine day. He had been at the ground since 6.30am, but, next to somedays, this was late. In wet summers past, had he woken in the night to see puddles on the pavements outside, he would have been unlocking the groundsman's hut before sunrise.

"I won't miss that part of it," he said, although there are many more memories he will cherish, most of them relating to the Rice era.

"The biggest compliment I was ever paid," he said, "was when someone wrote that when you come to Nottingham you don't just face Hadlee and Rice, you face Hadlee, Rice and Allsopp."

n Richard Illingworth, England's left-arm spinner, had a precautionary X-ray last night after being struck on the right index finger while batting as nightwatchman. It was hoped that Illingworth, who suffered a broken knuckle during the Third Test at Edgbaston, had this time suffered only bruising.