Flat and off-key

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The Independent Online
The square at this ground is made up of the flattest turf east of Kansas and should it be dug up one night, the bowlers' branch of the Cricketers' Association would certainly not shed any tears. Indeed, the Test and County Cricket Board might even be advised to offer an enormous reward for the work

Fanciful? This is heartbreak square, where each wicket is costing on average 50 runs. Yesterday's play was never as tedious as, say, Euro 96 was at the start, and on a glorious afternoon the attendant hacks were cheered by bubbly from a newly created OBE, the Worcestershire secretary, Mike Vockins.

Things happened, mostly to people - Andy Pick ran into a fence and cut his knee, Andy Afford got sunstroke, Tim Curtis has influenza, and Phil Newport lost his temper.

Nottinghamshire resumed still 321 behind on first innings with eight wickets standing. Two inspired bowling changes by Tom Moody won wickets. Richard Illingworth's fifth ball was pitched a little wider, Graeme Archer went to drive and edged to end a three-hour stay for 70.

Newport's third ball was nicked by Richard Bates to second slip, 34 off 58 balls. When on two, Paul Johnson could have edged Newport very low to Moody at first slip. Umpire George Sharp hesitated and then consulted his colleague at square-leg, Roy Palmer. The verdict: not out.

Moody and Johnson exchanged words, Newport gave the ball a hefty kick up the pitch and thereafter bowled fired up. Johnson counter-attacked, revealing one furious flat pull, before Newport won the contest, finding sufficient bounce to bring an edge.

Nottinghamshire, still 246 and five down, began to worry about a follow- on, aggravated by Chris Cairns's dismissal. Frustrated in facing two left arm spinners, he tried to clear long-off and fell to a fine low catch, tumbling forward.

Although Ashley Metcalfe, starting dourly, lost Lyn Walker to the new ball, taken at 307, the Yorkshireman welcomed the extra pace, going to his first first-class 50 for Nottinghamshire with successive coverdrives to the boundary off Stuart Lampitt and, with Kevin Evans, taking his new team out of immediate danger.

He had reached an excellent, accelerating 80 when he pulled Lampitt to square leg. Metcalfe now has a string of 47-31-41-80 in the Championship. If, at 32, Trent Bridge can revive his career they have a class batsman.

Worcestershire increased their lead to 209 for the loss of Steve Rhodes, deputising for Curtis, in the 25 overs to the close. Graeme Hick was in full flow. Tomorrow's declaration will be tricky.

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