Downed by Law

Essex 368 and 26-2 Nottinghamshire 97 and 415
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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire battled and scraped their way through a long, hot day's salvage operation here yesterday to redress a wholly inadequate first innings batting performance. Several times Essex seemed to have made the breakthrough only for another stubborn, frustrating partnership to develop.

While Nottinghamshire had only one win in eight in the Championship so far, Essex have also faltered after two early wins. One clear Essex success story is Stuart Law, who revealed another facet of his many talents yesterday. The Australian has notched up four Championship centuries and has now proved to be the purveyor of a mean leg break.

Law accounted for the early breakthroughs with a testing, if slightly rusty, spell of wrist spin. Richard Bates offered a simple return catch and Paul Pollard, who had trouble picking Law's length, lunged forward once too often to provide a simple bat pad dismissal. Essex will sorely miss Law, who has been selected for Australia's (still to be finalised) August tour of Sri Lanka.

As Law tired, Paul Johnson and Ashley Metcalfe built a century partnership to anchor Nottinghamshire's recovery. Johnson looked out of form until he garnered three cover driven boundaries in a single loose over from Mark Ilott. After lunch he attacked Peter Such, depositing him over the stand and into the river to bring up his 50.

The new ball undid the pugnacious Johnson when he slashed wildly at a wide one and Metcalfe, who had been quietly picking off Law's looser deliveries, went soon after, beaten for length by a beauty from Ilott which clipped the top of off stump.

Essex sensed victory when Usman Afzaal followed quickly but they reckoned without a typically flamboyant, free-flowing Chris Cairns. The New Zealander struck nine fours in a quick-fire 50 before holing out lamely to midwicket. Meanwhile Kevin Evans was determinedly going about his batting business, adding another vital 40 runs for the ninth wicket with Mark Bowen.

Ilott returned belatedly to end the resistance, which left Essex to make an uncomfortable 145 runs for victory. With Graham Gooch already up the motorway to Manchester for his England Selectors' meeting, the home side lost two wickets in adding 26 at the close. Essex are still in the driving seat but there may be some nerves on Monday.