Cricket / County Championship: Crawley thrives on slow motion

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .350-6


THERE are two Crawleys in county cricket, and Lancashire are thought to have got the better deal. However, whether or not Mark gets irritated at being referred to as John's older brother, he is more than doing the business for Nottinghamshire, and yesterday's century (his fourth) took his runs for the season to 850.

They were not the prettiest 115 runs you will ever see, and in mid- afternoon, with Nottinghamshire grinding along at barely two an over, even the animated shrilling from large parties of schoolchildren had died away. Maybe, in line with modern education methods, the old system of punishing miscreants with 100 lines, detention or six of the best, has been replaced by a day at the cricket.

By three o'clock, after half a day of unspeakably tedious batting, most of the kids had gone, doubtless pledging never to be naughty boys again, and begging for an afternoon at the synchronised swimming. 'Please sir, anything but Trent Bridge.'

Nottinghamshire, a couple of wins behind the Championship leaders with two games in hand, are using a worn pitch here, and attempted to reduce the spectators to a similar state. However, a mid-afternoon change of tempo saw them secure maximum batting points with a boundary off the last available delivery, and as the ball is already turning, their early caution now looks justified.

Crawley looked particularly well named as he took 155 minutes to reach 50, and it would have been a good bit longer than that but for a series of long hops from Richard Illingworth - a former England spinner, destined, on yesterday's evidence, to remain former. Illingworth also dropped a boundary catch when Paul Johnson had made 50 fewer than his 78.

One of England's 'observers', Phil Sharpe, was at the ground, and he would have been doing his country a favour if he had phoned up to relieve Lord Ted & Co of the idea that in Graeme Hick (once he has scored some runs, of course) they have an all-rounder on their hands.

Not so long ago, Hick was a decidedly promising off-spinner. Nowadays, though, he hardly turns his arm over for Worcestershire (57 overs in seven first-class games this season) and yesterday's offering was very much the flightless trundle of a part-timer.

He remains, though, a slip catcher of the highest class, as Johnson found out when looking set for a century. Johnson's innings was as valuable as it was entertaining, but it was Crawley's five-hour effort which broke Worcestershire's attack.