County Cricket: Robinson survives Pringle's purge: Nottinghamshire put it down to inexperience

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The Independent Online
Essex 450-8 dec and 260-1 dec; Nottinghamshire 379-6 dec and 197-8. Match drawn

THE shell-shocked Essex triumvirate returning from the Test front line will be cheered by this recuperative performance. A blow-softener, achieved with the unwitting co-operation of Nottinghamshire, whose batting frailty defied further description on a flat pitch. They avoided defeat only through the dogged defence of Tim Robinson, braving a wrist injury.

Ironically, an England outcast, Derek Pringle thrust Essex to the brink of victory after they had set a target of 332 from what became 77 overs. His return of 4 for 33, with a combination of strict line, length and swing, made Nottinghamshire's escape improbable from 125 for 5 at tea.

When Nottinghamshire entered a brave new world of youth at the end of last summer by dispensing with Chris Broad, Eddie Hemmings and Kevin Cooper, they probably neglected the fundamental truism that the four-day Championship demands a greater premium on experience than the three-day variety. This season, of all, with a a drastically reshaped fixture format, demanded stability among the playing staff.

Even Derek Randall seems unlikely to play much more Championship cricket, though he is in the frame for today's NatWest Trophy match against Cheshire at Warrington. The return of Chris Lewis, with a meagre four Championship wickets and 84 runs from four innings, scarecly prompts any sense of euphoria.

In many respects, the game, despite its extended duration, simply goes on as before. Joke bowling enabled the Essex century-makers, Jonathan Lewis and John Stephenson, to harvest 128 runs at nine an over to foster a declaration.

The match produced three individual hundreds and seven half-centuries, yet Robinson, Nottinghamshire's captain, played the most valuable innings of the game, an albeit modest 30 not out, which nevertheless saved it.

Robinson showed extreme diligence to survive 38 overs, while Michael Field-Buss batted throughout the last 12 overs without scoring. It was an imperfect match - even Dickie Bird, the umpire, failed to signal the start of the last 20 overs, until frantically doing so with a windmill action after two balls had elapsed. He did it again two balls later and achieved the desired response.

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