WHEN it comes to tailor-made pitches, Nottinghamshire's Ron Allsopp is in the Savile Row league of groundsmen. 'And what would sir be requiring for this match?' he probably asked his captain last Monday. 'A nice dusty turner? Certainly. I'll have it ready for you in the morning.'
However, the preparation of a spinners' pitch rather loses its point if your spinners are more likely to attract the attention of a Trades Descriptions officer than an England selector, and Ron's workmanship turned out to be a sad case of offering a Ming vase to someone with an advanced case of delirium tremens.
With the ageing warrior, Eddie Hemmings, resting a knee injury, neither side had a spinner worth a light, which is why this became a three-declaration match, and why the team batting last (which happened to be Worcestershire) won it.
Had Hemmings been bowling yesterday, when the ball turned and bounced so sharply at times that Bruce French must have considered keeping wicket with a helmet and gumshield, Nottinghamshire could scarcely have failed to win. However, Andy Afford and Michael Field-Buss were so awful that Worcestershire were able to breeze to their 64-over target of 259 from what could scarcely be described as a launchpad. After the first eight balls of their innings they were 1 for 3.
Worcestershire's captain, Tim Curtis, bagged a symmetrical pair - bowled by the fourth ball of both innings, Chris Cairns's next ball then removed Graeme Hick lbw, for 213 runs less than he had made first time round, and Chris Lewis's second delivery produced a thin edge to French from Tom Moody. Not surprisingly, Philip Weston (23 overs to reach double figures) and David Leatherdale dug in.
The depth of Worcestershire's early crisis was such that Afford and Field-Buss were able to avoid the punishment merited by some of the dross, but once the visitors had rallied with a fourth-wicket stand of 117, they rattled off the 130 required from the final 20 overs with 13 balls to spare.
Leatherdale completed his first century of the season, but it was Neal Radford, promoted up the order, who orchestrated the major carnage with 73 not out (six fours, two sixes) off 60 balls. Tim Robinson, the home captain, vainly attempted to placate an abusive spectator as he left the field, Robinson presumably arguing that generals do not win too many battles armed with water-pistols.
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