Cricket: Notts undone by Sutcliffe

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 196-8 Leicestershire 198-2 Leicestershire won by 8 wkts

IAIN SUTCLIFFE, Leicestershire's left-handed opener, coaxed efficient runs from a sleepy pitch yesterday to play the leading role in overhauling Nottinghamshire's modest target.

Indeed, for over after over, the big-hitting West Indian Phil Simmons was happy to be overshadowed while the run rate remained in the visitors' favour.

After Darren Maddy's undefeated 136 against Lancashire on the previous day, watched by England selector Graham Gooch, we might have expected the most successful batsman of the winter A tour to lead the Leicestershire charge, but he made an early and fatal waft at Andy Oram, leaving the stage to Sutcliffe. Maddy, however, must remain an England candidate for the summer.

Simmons, meanwhile, played within himself - a troublesome shoulder meant that he did not bowl earlier in the day - though the timing and touch were there, and the occasional power shot was awesome.

With Leicestershire on the brink of victory, Sutcliffe reached his first ton in this competition, a neat and almost flawless 147-ball effort. He had favoured the leg-side, but some offside punches and dabs were equally effective.

At the start of the piece, Nottinghamshire openers Paul Pollard and Usman Afzaal compiled a three-figure stand under a benign sky but - despite 13 runs from David Millns's second over - simply could not force the pace.

Pollard reached 50 and departed, and skipper Paul Johnson, impatient to up the rate, promoted himself to first wicket down. He bustled to the middle, had a stern word with the becalmed Afzaal, and launched his first ball to the extra-cover rope.

There immediately followed a moment of high farce. Afzaal squirted a ball from acting Leicestershire skipper Chris Lewis - James Whitaker is recovering from knee surgery - and Johnson charged down the wicket. His instruction to Afzaal seemed clear: "Fall on your sword, and let someone else have a clog."

Umpire Whitehead, however, decided that Afzaal had neglected to leave his crease before Lewis broke the non-striker's wicket, and so it was the incandescent captain who left the arena.

Afzaal batted on, fearful of leaving the safety of the square, however, he will correctly point that he was always prodding singles, and no one else could seize the initiative. The summit of Nottinghamshire's ambitions always seemed to be no more than 200.

Frustratingly beaten at the last gasp on the previous day, Leicestershire will take heart from this performance, and Lewis - roundly booed by some of the Trent Bridge crowd, who were glad to say goodbye to him back in 1995 - enjoyed his return.