Cricket: Rice worried by lowly position

Nottinghamshire 232 & 153 Derbyshire 263 & 123-4 Derbyshire win by 6 wickets
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The Independent Online
FOUR-DAY cricket remains an alien concept at Trent Bridge. None of the Championship matches here this season has lasted more than three and this one barely crept beyond two, even with summer at is height and batting conditions supposedly optimum. Derbyshire were packing up for their short journey home by 12.20pm yesterday, having consigned Nottinghamshire to a fifth consecutive defeat.

This may have been enough to ensure that they start next season in the second division of the revamped Championship, a possible fate that their coach, Clive Rice, tended to play down at the beginning of the season, but which now looms at a particularly inopportune time. Vasbert Drakes, their overseas player, has already announced he will not be coming back and the prospect of relegation will not improve the county's chances of bringing in Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar as his replacement. They also stand to lose Mark Arthur, their ambitious chief executive, who is tipped to move across the road to Nottingham Forest.

Once Nottinghamshire had folded on Saturday, collapsing from 92 for 1 to 153 all out, there was never much doubt that Derbyshire would win. With Andrew Harris out of the match with a broken thumb, they were a man short but, at yesterday's start, they needed only 79, all wickets standing.

Given that a lively pitch was becoming unpredictable, it was always possible that they would suffer a wobble or two after openers Adrian Rollins and Steve Titchard had reached 61 in 12 overs.

Titchard had already departed, snapped up by Graeme Archer at second slip, when a flurry of Nottinghamshire success saw three dismissals for five runs in the space of four overs. Robin Weston edged Drakes to give Archer a second catch, then Chris Read pouched Ben Spendlove off Mark Bowen, whose next over claimed Rollins, dropped at long leg off Drakes but now brilliantly held by Alex Wharf at square leg from a fierce pull.

However, any nerves as might have gripped Derbyshire at this point were rapidly calmed by Matthew Cassar, who was soon punishing anything short or wide from Nottinghamshire's bowlers, accumulating 30 runs from only 20 deliveries including five fours and a six hooked off Drakes.

It was not a happy match for the 29-year-old from Barbados, who has decided to forgo further county cricket so he can concentrate on regaining his place in the West Indies squad. After his exchange of words with Derbyshire captain, Dominic Cork, during the morning session on Saturday, umpires Mervyn Kitchen and Barrie Leadbeater made it known that they were unimpressed with Drakes's conduct and would be mentioning it in their report.

Cork and Drakes clashed shortly after the England all-rounder's arrival at the crease early in the day. It led to Drakes being told to "cool it", but Cork regained his composure to play a major part in thwarting Nottinghamshire's fightback.