Essex prove vaudeville is not dead

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The Independent Online


reports from Trent Bridge

Notts 314 and 274-6 dec

Essex 301 and 271

Nottinghamshire win by 16 runs

"Nottinghamshire a Great County" is emblazoned across the municipal offices overlooking the main scoreboard, and the adjoining pub claims to be "world renowned". This would be slightly more accurate if it was rephrased to: "incredibly famous throughout the length and breadth of West Bridgford", but let's not nit-pick.

Nottinghamshire the county cricket club are a shade more modest about their standing, but after yesterday's wholly improbable victory over Essex off the game's penultimate ball, they hauled themselves up a few rungs from the lower reaches of the Championship table.

Essex themselves are unlikely to be incurring vast expenditure on silver polish this summer, and their one-time reputation for clinical efficiency appears to have totally deserted them. Talk about cool heads in crisis. You could have boiled a kettle on an Essex cranium on yesterday's evidence.

Underpinned by a fine century from Nasser Hussain on a turning pitch, Essex required only 46 runs at a run a ball with six wickets in hand when Ronnie Irani became the first of three suicidal run-outs, precipitating a collapse which saw the last five Essex wickets evaporate in 14 balls.

Nottinghamshire's victory owed less to their own efforts than Essex ultimately resembling more of a vaudeville act than a cricket team, although the home side has a more than decent prospect in the 21-year-old left-arm spinner Jimmy Hindson, who took 5 for 105.

Hindson lacks the variety of his 31-year-old partner Andy Afford who, on a pitch tailor-made for spin, was either fizzing past the outside edge, or waiting for one of his long hops to be thrown back by a spectator. It was this lack of control which appeared to have undermined Nottinghamshire's declaration, which left Essex requiring 288 from what transpired to be 66 overs.

Tim Robinson is not noted for generosity in this department, and, a season or two back, Chris Cairns threw down his bat in exasperation waiting for Robinson to appear on the balcony. However, with Cairns unable to bowl because of a side strain, the Nottinghamshire captain was not about to hand the game to Essex. As it happened, Essex handed it to him instead.

Essex made a dodgy start, with Graham Gooch getting out sweeping for the second time in the match against Hindson, and Mark Waugh can barely score a run at present.

However, a stand of 108 in 31 overs between Hussain and Paul Prichard then gave Essex a platform from which risk taking was barely required. From then on, however, Essex's batting left few avenues of ineptitude unexplored, and Hindson sealed victory with a bat-pad catch from his second- last delivery.