Cricket: Gallian takes full advantage of woeful Essex

Nottinghamshire 233-1 v Essex
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The Independent Online
FIVE DAYS ago Essex spurned the chance to chase the 371 runs needed to beat Worcestershire and increase their slender chances of being in the top division of the County Championship next season. Yesterday those chances had not improved against Nottinghamshire, whose captain, Jason Gallian, scored an unbeaten 117 off a bowling attack for whom the term "line and length" had all the impenetrability of obscure Anglo-Saxon, rather than one of basic instruction.

Nottinghamshire, already destined for the second division next year, have been easy meat for many this season. Yet before rain washed out half the day's play they were rarely compromised by the Essex bowlers, who leaked runs and failed to make the inroads required to take a grip of this match. Unless they can quickly makes amends today, life among the minnows beckons for this once dominant club.

Without being too ungracious to Gallian, who made his fastest ever century in the championship (114 balls), or to Guy Welton whose unbeaten 73 has so far helped to add 200 for the second wicket, Essex were dreadful. At one stage Nasser Hussain had to bring on his spinners just to stem the flow, no doubt unaware that before this match spinners of all denominations had bowled just 47.4 overs here this year.

It is a shocking statistic and one that no doubt contributed to Trent Bridge's suspended sentence from the pitch inspector, who has the power to deduct anything ranging from 25, 12 and 10 points depending on the degree of unplayability. Unless lawyers get involved, which has happened once already, another poor pitch here next season will automatically see some points docked.

Whether it was the shock of finding a bare brown pitch, instead of the usual lush green one, after Hussain won the toss Essex wasted the advantage of bowling under leaden skies. Even the one wicket to fall, that of Usman Afzaal, lbw to Mark Ilott, was fortuitous, the ball probably going on to miss leg stump.

Ilott also had Welton dropped at extra cover, when the batsman was on 44, but it was the slenderest of moral victories over a player who until this game was averaging 13 for the season. Most of the time though, Essex dealt in utter dross, though there was some muttering that the ball had got wet early on, which had softened the seam and made it difficult to grip.

Whatever the reasons for such an abysmal display, Gallian must have thought it was Christmas. Strong off his legs, with a powerful cut shot to boot, the likes of Ricky Anderson and David Thompson fed him with a generosity verging on the charitable. Indeed, before rain called an early halt, it seemed more like declaration bowling than a bona fide effort to save one's bacon.

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