Notts lose Wagh but could win last-day skirmish

Notts 326 & 380-6 dec Hampshire 295 & 9-1 (Hampshire need 403 more runs to win)
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The Independent Online

Mark Wagh, the elegant Nottinghamshire batsman who has become county cricket's latest diarist, observes that at any point in a cricket match you can never know what's going to happen next. He could offer his team's game against Hampshire as evidence. Shortly after the start, Nottinghamshire began their second innings with a lead of 31 runs. Before lunch they had already lost four wickets for 47, a lead of only 78, and Hampshire thought they knew what was going to happen.

James Tomlinson, an under-rated left-arm fast-medium bowler, had got unpredictable bounce from the wicket and had both openers caught behind. Samit Patel top-edged a catch to cover to give Tomlinson a return of 3 for 9 at that stage. Wagh himself had fatally played back instead of forward to the spin of Imran Tahir.

Hampshire supporters were quietly calculating what they might expect to score to win. So what happened next? A partnership of 110 between Adam Voges and Ali Brown was followed by another hundred stand between former Surrey man Brown and Chris Read.

A splendid Nottinghamshire recovery was celebrated by Brown's first century for his new county, scored off 133 balls with plenty of productive nurdles off his legs, interspersed with 15 boundaries.

Wagh's diary of the 2008 season seems to have survived the critical scrutiny of the dressing room, unlike Ed Smith's similar exercise when he was at Kent. Wagh liked the colleagues he was writing about; the team had a decent season, and he was not on a blatant ego trip. "I did not want to be self-congratulatory," he says. "If I was playing badly I was more than happy to lay into myself."

He was willing to lay into himself yesterday. He had batted cautiously, only rarely playing his trademark off drive. Wagh says he tries to clear his mind and play each ball on its merits. "Problems occur only when I start thinking about batting." But the Pakistan spinner Tahir was giving him plenty to think about. He offered variety: leggies, top spinners and googlies. If he writes a diary of this summer, Wagh will concede that Tahir bowled a slightly quicker delivery. "I should have gone forward," he says, but instead he played back and was lbw for only 20 runs.

And what happened after he was gone was that the score moved fast forward, with Read completing his own hundred in only 125 balls (15 fours and one six) before Brown cut casually to point, having raised his score to 148.

When Read and Mark Ealham went on to treat the bowling with mild contempt, the score ballooned so quickly that Read, who had gone on to score 116 not out, declared and set Hampshire 412 to win.

Being cricket, we can't tell what will happen today, but it is safe to say that Hampshire will need to bat better than they did in the first innings if they are to save the game, especially after losing James Adams for six in the penultimate over of the day.