Cricket: Law's mixed bag

Notts 342 and 279 for 9 dec Essex 322 and 198 for 8 Match drawn
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ESSEX hit unfamiliar waters and sank to the bottom of the County Championship table yesterday, despite the doughty efforts of their younger brigade in staving off the sharks of Nottinghamshire.

Needing 300 to win in 73 overs on a not unfriendly fourth-day pitch, they settled for salvation once the inspirational Australian Stuart Law perished in mid-afternoon to leave the score at 70 for four. It was still necessary to play out the last five overs with only two wickets standing.

Had Law, the scorer of a masterly first-innings century, stayed longer, a push for victory would have been feasible. As it was, he departed with much reluctance, leg-before to Mark Bowen for 22, the umpire Roy Palmer having a long look before raising the finger which changed the complexion of the match.

That was the second wicket to fall at 70, the young opener Ian Flanagan having prodded forward to silly-point after Darren Robinson and Paul Grayson had failed again. Robinson did not manage to get off the mark in nine overs before edging Andy Oram to slip. Grayson was caught behind off the same bowler, so the combined contribution of two of the more experienced batsmen was six runs in the match.

It was a more memorable occasion for Flanagan and another Essex teenager, Stephen Peters, who followed his best championship score of 64 with an equally accomplished 53 not out to save the game. The two youngsters were among five Essex players involved in England's Under-19 World Cup victory last winter. So the future seems in safe hands, if the present is unexpectedly shaky. Ilford, although less financially successful than the other remaining Essex out-grounds of Colchester and Southend, has a place in the heart of the county's followers as the home club of Graham Gooch, John Lever and Nasser Hussain.

All the more disappointing then that there were not more spectators present on much the sunniest day of the festival. Perhaps those present on Friday had been put off by an afternoon session in which only 65 runs were scored. Nottinghamshire always seemed likely to rue the time and runs frittered away at that stage. Batting with slightly more urgency in the final session, they went into the final day 193 ahead, adding a further 106 in 20 overs before the declaration.

Law's catch at slip to dismiss Graeme Archer was his sixth of the match - equalling the county record - while Peter Such took five wickets in the innings.