Free-flowing Cairns swings into action

Derbyshire 341 and 49-0 Nottinghamshire 317
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The Independent Online
On a pitch which, under two days of sun, had lost all its moisture and become most amiable, Derbyshire's bowling did not quite live up to its high reputation.

Nottinghamshire, belying their position one from the bottom of the Championship table, batted with commendable solidarity and, as far as Chris Cairns was concerned, with flair. Tim Robinson played a typically worthy innings of 53 in 39 overs. Paul Johnson, who has not had a happy season with the bat, made 82 at much the same pace until he became infected by Cairns's sense of adventure after passing 50.

Cairns, a tall man with an unruly crop of hair sticking out of the back of his cap, has a lovely free-swinging backlift, a natural sense of timing and a marvellous eye. He drove, cut and pulled more as if this was a Sunday afternoon knockabout than a crucial Championship match.

He had come in after Phillip DeFreitas had removed Robinson and Usman Afzaal with successive balls, and was within a whisker of being bowled as he pushed forward to the hat-trick ball. He then set about the bowling with a rare flourish, and suddenly what had seemed hard labour was made to appear fun. At 75, he paid the penalty of his own exuberance, hooking at Devon Malcolm and skying a catch off the top edge that Tim O'Gorman judged well at fine leg.

Malcolm had a mixed day. He was fierce and threatening at the start, when he was unlucky to have Robinson, on one at the time, dropped by Dominic Cork at first slip. Malcolm bowled well again after lunch, but when he returned later on and Cairns and Johnson were going well, he was much more manageable. However, he did have Johnson caught behind as he tried to run him down to third man. Overall, it was not a performance which would have changed Ray Illingworth's mind nor would it have confirmed his worst fears.

DeFreitas was the best of the Derbyshire bowlers, picking up four wickets, while Cork, never a man to be discounted in any situation, has so far enjoyed his batting more than his bowling. He got to within three runs of his second first-class hundred when he skied a catch to cover off the leading edge in trying to play Mark Bowen to midwicket. With six wickets, Bowen returned the best figures of his career.