Cricket: Essex undone by Pollard's poise: Nottinghamshire win by 2 wickets

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Nottinghamshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .409 and 167-8

Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .153 and 422

HAVE Essex lost their touch? With 40 needed, four wickets left and the odd ball from John Childs turning sharply, another remarkable comeback seemed more likely than the hosts' first defeat of the season. As it was, Paul Pollard kept his cool when all around him were sweating buckets, maintaining Nottinghamshire's hold on second place in the Championship.

Requiring a further 166 with nine wickets intact, Nottinghamshire were taking nothing for granted when they resumed, and rightly so. From time to time on Saturday, deliveries had misbehaved at the pavilion end, rendering it difficult to avoid a suspicion that Childs and Peter Such would have taken better advantage than their counterparts.

In the event, the pitch remained largely even-handed, deteriorating slightly but ideal for a four-day game. John Stephenson had demonstrated the virtue of playing forward and Pollard duly followed suit, content to seal up one end and acquire by stealth. The opener's eventual, unbeaten 53, equaling his highest score of the season, spanned 63 overs.

At one point after lunch Pollard gave the scorers a 10-over breather, but then artistic merit was not exactly a priority. His rigour certainly showed up Paul Johnson, who shovelled Such to mid-wicket second ball as if aggrieved that his sun-bathing had been interrupted.

What flourish there was came, once again, from the promising Graham Archer, whose soundness of technique is more than matched by the wattage of his strokes. Unafraid to venture over the top, he attempted to do unto Such much as Martin Crowe had done at Lord's, upsetting his rhythm with the short, sharp shot of a sudden assault. Unfortunately, he had not quite done enough when Ronnie Irani, in the only over of seam to follow Mark Ilott's ninth-over exit with a knee complaint, was brought on to allow the spinners to swap ends and promptly induced him to play on via a loose waft.

There were a couple of might- have-beens. More proficient with ball than bat of late, Jimmy Adams survived an early chance off Such, a lofted off-drive conveniently picking out Childs, the one fielder capable of making his captain look lithe. With runs at such a premium, Mike Garnham's frequent donations to the extras box also proved costly, though he partially redeemed himself by stumping Adams as well as Chris Lewis. Above all, though, Essex will regret their inadequacies at the crease on Friday.