Luke Fletcher slows Yorkshire attempt to build on lead

Yorkshire 327-8 v Nottinghamshire

Jon Culley
Wednesday 21 August 2013 23:33
Luke Fletcher celebrates after taking the wicket of Phil Jacques
Luke Fletcher celebrates after taking the wicket of Phil Jacques

This match has taken on a significance for both sides since Nottinghamshire's director of cricket Mick Newell admitted that his team would be foolish to think that relegation cannot sneak up on them as the Championship season enters its final phase.

Equipped with a depth and quality of batting over which most of their First Division rivals cast envious eyes at the start of the season, they have been remarkably poor at converting those resources into wins. Notts have only two victories from 11 matches so far, a statistic that owes much to their failure – pointed out by Newell, incidentally – to take 20 wickets in any of the last seven games.

Their reliance on the creaking Andre Adams to supply 50 or more wickets in a season has been emphasised painfully during the Kiwi's several absences this year because of calf and hamstring injuries.

Newell fears that Adams, who turned 38 last month, will have to be nursed through the remaining five matches, so it will have come as a relief that Luke Fletcher, an honest and willing toiler, chose the moment to pick up his first five-wicket haul since 2011, although there was concern when an attack of cramp forced him to leave the field mid-over in the evening session.

His performance brought some balance to the day after Yorkshire were asked to bat first, on a hard pitch with some grass left on it, in a game with importance for them at the other end of the table, where they are eager to build on a lead at the top of 10 points over Sussex, who do not play this week.

Yorkshire's position at the head of affairs in their 150th year is all the more commendable for having got this far despite losing Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow for sizeable chunks of it. Bairstow drove up the M1 to join this match, having been released by England at The Kia Oval, but his return is countered by the absence of Gary Ballance with England Lions.

Yorkshire moved last week to cover Ballance's call-up by signing the New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson, who succumbed to a first-ball duck here, putting Fletcher on a hat-trick after a beautiful delivery had accounted for Andrew Gale, caught behind. Williamson, in his first first-class match since May's second Test against England, steered to third slip. Doubtless he will do better.

Adam Lyth became Fletcher's fourth victim when just five away from his second hundred of the season. Although his runs may be valuable, Lyth was cross with himself for playing needlessly outside off stump. He'd had an escape on 33, when Samit Patel could not hold a low chance at third slip, but there were some handsome drives among his 14 boundaries.

Adil Rashid, who survived Fletcher's hat-trick ball, added an elegant 78 before Fletcher had him leg-before. Wicketkeeper Chris Read overtook Bruce French as Nottinghamshire's most successful post-war wicketkeeper when his fourth catch took his career tally to 738.

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