THEY think it's all over - and it might as well be now. Supported by flawless close catching, Peter Such (6 for 39 against his former county) and John Childs (4 for 59) spun Essex to a comprehensive victory here yesterday with 8.1 overs to spare, thus extending their lead in the Championship to a forbidding 37 points. Nottinghamshire's hopes, like everyone else's, must now be of a wistful hue.
The way was paved via a controlled morning assault, Jonathan Lewis and Derek Pringle collecting 81 in 43 minutes at one stage. After expending 11 overs over three singles, Pringle eventually emerged from his cocoon to flip Eddie Hemmings over mid-wicket for six and so bring up his 300 - for the season, that is.
In his capacity as chairman of the England selectors, Peter May offered no more acute observation than the suggestion that Pringle should hit his weight; indeed, for a hefty fellow, Pringle has rarely appeared to more than tap the ball. This, though, was one of his more assertive days, 45 flowing from that suddenly thirsty blade in seven overs.
The ensuing declaration left Nottinghamshire needing 168 to avoid the innings defeat and, more pertinently, a minimum of 72 overs to survive.
Paul Pollard and Chris Broad coped well enough with the seamers but when Such entered proceedings in the seventh over of the innings and immediately obtained turn and occasionally extravagant lift, the plot altered dramatically.
Pollard was the first to succumb, caught behind prodding at Such. Graham Gooch's lugubrious features brightened further still a few moments later when a squall blew down the press tent. Doubtless to his eternal regret, there were no casualties.
In Such's next over, Tim Robinson pushed foward, saw the ball lob up and then somehow screw back into the stumps upon landing. Surely the gods were with Essex now, all the more so when Lewis expertly intercepted a speeding bullet from Broad's bat at silly point.
The next three wickets all testified to Nick Knight's prehensile handiwork in the slips, although the third was some time in arriving as Chris Lewis thrust his nose to the grindstone for 24 overs.
Chris Cairns followed suit but when a flick off Such found Paul Prichard at leg slip, the last hour began with Nottinghamshire on 120 for 7 and going under for the third time.
Kevin Evans and Bruce French manned the lifeboats for 11 overs before Such bowled Evans, whereupon Childs kidded the wicketkeeper into padding up to his arm ball and then had Andy Afford taken at silly point four deliveries later. Gooch will leave a happy crew behind while he nips off to fly the flag.
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