Cricket: Robinson on a slow fuse

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire. . . 331

Worcestershire. . . .285

STIMULUS was added to Nottinghamshire's championship challenge yesterday by an attritional century from their captain, Tim Robinson. Not noted as one of the most adventurous captains on the circuit, Robinson had certainly led by example here, and by tomorrow evening he should have led his side into second place, behind Warwickshire.

Just as the day was grey and cloudy, so the cricket was lethargic for much of the time. The game might not have been at a stage that promotes entertainment of the limited-overs variety, but even so the variety on offer need not have been quite so limited.

Robinson's second century of the season, enlivened by 15 boundaries, occupied four hours and came off 207 deliveries. It was not always stimulating stuff and hardly enough to rouse a somewhat somnolent crowd of spectators ringing the outfield. Paul Johnson apart, Robinson's supporting cast was even more low-key, though, and there were early periods when it seemed that Nottinghamshire were reluctant to take the initiative.

Still, this is a fault of much first-class cricket in England. Too often players just wait for something to occur, rather than working to make it happen, and we saw this again yesterday. Tim Curtis, the Worcestershire captain, was soon setting defensive fields for his seam bowlers, and they responded in the main by plugging away in vague expectation rather than anticipation of a wicket. Phil Newport was the pick of them, and nipping one back, he beat Paul Pollard's defensive jab to trap him plumb in front.

Pollard and Robinson had been chugging along at two runs an over for 20 overs. Graeme Archer, moved up the order, struck several sweet- sounding drives to the boundary before edging a square swat off Richard Illingworth to Worcestershire's diminutive wicketkeeper, Tim Edwards, and it was only with the advent of Johnson that the run-rate started to pick up.

Using his feet against Illingworth's left-arm spin, and driving or cutting the quicker men, he looked like overhauling Robinson when, going back to cut Newport, he edged to Tom Moody at slip.

By now, however, Robinson was finding both his timing and the gaps in the field. That Jimmy Adams was content to play second fiddle to his captain is reflected in his having scored just 28 when their partnership for the fourth wicket went into three figures. Not that Adams has been among the runs of late: before yesterday's 32, his previous six innings had totalled only 32 runs.

Worcestershire now had spin at both ends, and Robinson was taking the long handle to Damian D'Oliveira's off-spin when he was caught on the midwicket boundary. Next ball, the first of his 35th over in an unchanged spell from the pavilion end, Illingworth bowled Adams. When Wayne Noon was caught in D'Oliveira's next over, Nottinghamshire's lead was 300 and they again found themselves looking to Chris Lewis to settle things down.

Lewis's continuing rehabilitation as an England all-rounder has been a feature here, with bowling figures of five for 71 in the first innings to add to his 77 runs on the first day. Certainly Nottinghamshire's rise as title contenders has been coincidental with Lewis's renewed form, and the East Midlanders will miss him now that he has been called up for the one-day series against South Africa later this week. Only two of their seven wins this season have come at Trent Bridge, where they meet Lancashire on Thursday and Middlesex in the last game.