Cricket: Notts exploit Rice's input

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 417 Worcestershire 172 & 54-2

CLIVE RICE warned Nottinghamshire's public not to expect instant results from his quest to revive the county's flagging fortunes but there are already signs that the return of the former captain to the Trent Bridge dressing-room is having a beneficial effect.

Worcestershire, with an injury list to which Stuart Lampitt (broken finger) and (temporarily) Philip Weston were added yesterday, have hardly been a formidable opponent over the first two days here but Nottinghamshire's performance deserves applause none the less. Having forced Worcestershire to follow on 245 runs behind, they had reinforced their position by the close to the extent that Rice is likely to be celebrating victory in his first home match as coach with a day to spare at the very least. The visitors still need 191 to make the home side bat again.

For Nottinghamshire to top 400 has been a rarity in recent seasons - in any circumstances, let alone when put in on a green top. But more runs yesterday morning, chiefly from Alex Wharf, ensured that this first objective was achieved despite the loss of wicketkeeper Chris Read to the first ball of the day.

Then came the second objective: to exploit a pacy, seaming pitch where Worcestershire had failed miserably. This one was chalked off within 58 overs as the visiting side, deprived of Lampitt after his injury in the field on Wednesday, rolled over for 172.

Wharf, one of those erstwhile under-achievers to whom Rice's arrival offers a specific challenge, claimed two wickets but most of the damage was done by Vasbert Drakes, with whom Rice has replaced the Zimbabwean spinner Paul Strang as overseas player. His first overs of the Championship season returned figures of 5 for 49 - just reward for bowling that was not merely sharp but varied and imaginative.

Rice describes Drakes, the Bajan all-rounder, as the best player not taking part in the World Cup. He could not be picked, under West Indies selection criteria, because he plays his cricket with Border in South Africa, rather than back home in the Busta Cup. Never mind that he finished the most recent South African season with 56 first class wickets - only two short of the domestic record.