High Noon leads the resistance

Notts 133 and 415 Warwickshire 344 and 95-4 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
An intriguing day's play saw underdogs Nottinghamshire battling to save the game and, when they took the first three Warwickshire wickets for eight runs in the evening, entertaining more ambitious thoughts. This was a vindication of last year's decision to restore points for a draw to the win-or-nothing equation, which left a crumbling side no real incentive to do more than roll over and die.

When Notts followed on well before lunch on Friday yet another blank Saturday was threatened, even though a pitch that was sprightly at the start of the game was flattening by the hour. The Championship remains wide open this season, and at the outset both sides were lurking in mid- table, separated only by three points. So there was a real reason to make a fight of it.

Both teams are currently weakened by injuries, and Nottinghamshire's problems increased on Friday when their skipper Paul Johnson had a previously- broken finger roughed up again and Paul Pollard had one cracked, both victims of Michael Bell, a supporting act in the Warwickshire cast. The classiest bowler in the game, Allan Donald, had a five-wicket haul yesterday, but on a feather-bed strip even he needed the scalps of the walking wounded and tail-enders to do it.

Nottinghamshire's fightback was based on two composed Friday innings by Mathew Dowman (96) and Nathan Astle (100), the New Zealander who is proving a valuable late signing to replace Chris Cairns. They put on 195 for Nottinghamshire's second wicket, helping the home side to begin yesterday 68 ahead with six wickets in hand.

Although Donald soon removed Usman Afzaal it took the second new ball to break a backs-to-the-wall partnership between Chris Tolley and Wayne Noon, giving the 18-year-old left hander Paul Franks a turn at extending the innings beyond a distant danger point.

Warwickshire seemed bereft of ideas during the hot afternoon, and when Donald returned from the Ratcliff Road end the injured Johnson immediately hooked him one-handed for six. Franks was also enjoying himself by now, and was a reluctant Donald victim later in the afternoon, waiting to be assured that his snick had carried to Tony Frost. Johnson's defiance then ended - typically, caught in the deep - which meant that one busted finger replaced another as Pollard lengthened the resistance.

When it ended and a delayed tea was taken, Warwickshire needed an accessible 205 from 32 overs. Ironically, that flurry of wickets on the resumption helped kill the match - the batsmen replaced speculation with consolidation, and Nottinghamshire could not continue the procession. But, for a match that at one time seemed destined to end on Friday, the whole gritty day had been a bonus.