Read takes up Afzaal's torch

Nottinghamshire 341 <br/>Essex 2-0
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The Independent Online

The presence of Raman Subba Row to see fair play – he even had a brief word with the opposing captains before hostilities commenced to remind them to stick to cricket's equivalent of the Queensbury rules – was enough to convince everyone present that this was the Second Division title showdown.

The presence of Raman Subba Row to see fair play – he even had a brief word with the opposing captains before hostilities commenced to remind them to stick to cricket's equivalent of the Queensbury rules – was enough to convince everyone present that this was the Second Division title showdown.

The way the England and Wales Cricket Board sees it: "Captains are reminded that the responsibility lies with them for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit and traditions of the game..." In other words no "gimmes", no quarter, no reciprocal scratching of backs.

Unlikely here with so much at stake. Nottinghamshire need to extract a minimum of eight points from this match to guarantee top-flight championship status next season, Essex came into the game requiring one point to clinch promotion. But there is also the matter of prize-money, £40,000 to the Second Division champions, £25,000 to the runners-up.

Nottinghamshire recovered from a couple of early flesh wounds to see Darren Bicknell and Usman Afzaal return fire in a 110-run stand that carried Nottinghamshire beyond lunch. Essex's lack of serious firepower – the head coach Graham Gooch has indicated that they will be in the market for a fast bowler this winter – meant that they had to wait until half an hour after that first interval before they had picked up the all-important first bowling point that took them into the First Division, that was when Bicknell fell lbw having reached fifty for the third time in four innings.

Afzaal cracked on and smacked his way to an assured hundred, his fourth of the season. He had hammered 17 boundaries and lofted a further two sixes before he fell mis-driving to long-off. His departure sparked a staggering mini-collapse that saw the spinner James Middlebrook finish with three wickets in four balls with the Nottinghamshire total on 250 – worth two bonus points.

Thankfully the wicketkeeper Chris Read was in feisty form, fashioning a useful half-century to squeeze out a third batting point, ably abetted by A J (as the tail-ender formerly known as Andrew wishes to be known) Harris. The pair adding a stubborn 76 for the last wicket. Bad light then rudely interrupted Essex's nascent reply.

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