Read's love of a crisis guides Notts over the line in thriller

Worcestershire 315 & 328 Nottinghamshire 382 & 266-7 (Nottinghamshire won by 3 wickets)
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The Independent Online

On a day when the temptation might have been to stay close to a television screen, these sides found a way to keep the crowd here fully engaged to the end before Nottinghamshire clinched the victory that keeps them top of the First Division in the County Championship.

The contest had progressed with a fascinating ebb and flow from the start and the pattern continued throughout the last day as Notts appeared to have seized the initiative by breaking the partnership that had set them back on Thursday but then faced a stiffer last-innings run chase than they would have liked after Damien Wright's late blows swelled the Worcestershire total.

Alex Hales, another from a rich crop of young players currently creating excitement around the circuit, then seemed capable of making the task look relatively simple, unfurling a succession of high-class shots as Worcestershire's ageing, ill-equipped attack failed to make the most of a worn pitch. Yet there was still another twist. The 22-year-old right-hander, twice out in the 80s in Nottinghamshire's unlikely win over Yorkshire at Headingley last week, looked as sure to complete a century as he can have felt in any innings in his short career so far when his attempt to hit Gareth Andrew through the on side for his 14th boundary instead flew off a leading edge to cover.

Hales threw his head back in frustration but his departure was not a matter for only personal dismay. Samit Patel, caught behind after an inside edge had deflected the ball via pad or body, and Adam Voges, leg before to Wright, had been casualties too as Worcestershire worked their way back into the contest. Then Steven Mullaney, having announced himself with two classic cover-driven fours, lost his off stump, leaving Notts with 54 still to get and only four wickets in hand.

More than 20 overs remained, so time favoured the home side, but it raised the possibility of a close finish nonetheless if Worcestershire, who have given a close match to all of their opponents so far, despite losing to all three, could just maintain their momentum. They might have done had they not been confronted by Chris Read and Paul Franks, who have become so accustomed to batting in a crisis in a Notts line-up prone to self-destruct that they face situations such as this nervelessly. And by the time a splendid catch by Moeen Ali at mid-wicket gave Alan Richardson his ninth wicket in the match as Franks fell, the job was as good as done. Read duly wrapped it up with a towering six off Ali's off-spin.