Lancashire129 for 6 (Chappell 3-38) trail Nottinghamshire 472 (Slater 142, Duckett 116, Mullaney 67, Clarke 57) by 343 runs
Barring collapses on a scale previously achieved only by the Ottoman Empire and temperamental divas on opening night at Covent Garden this match really should end in a draw. So much seemed abundantly clear when Lancashire began their first innings after tea on the third day needing only to make their twenty wickets last around 134 overs in order to save the game. And despite the loss of six wickets in the long evening session Lancashire should still be able to survive on what will be a third-day pitch offering good carry but no obvious demons.
Actually doing the deed, however, may be a very different matter. Particularly so, for a team who have been second best in all six sessions and whose batting insecurities were evident as they collapsed to 59 for 4 against a resurgent Nottinghamshire attack defending a total of 472. Yet while the opening dozen overs of Lancashire’s innings reflected poorly on the visitors’ top-order batting, it also brought back into focus their wastage of the new ball on Saturday morning.
That said, Keaton Jennings probably did not need to play at the one from Zak Chappell that he edged to Haseeb Hameed at third slip, and the same bowler grabbed a sharp two-handed return catch when Josh Bohannon failed to get over a checked drive. Four balls earlier Alex Davies had nicked a good ball from Peter Trego to Tom Moores and Nottinghamshire had got the start they needed.
Forty-five minutes later Liam Livingstone drove loosely at Steven Mullaney and was bowled through the gate for 14. The prize wicket of Dane Vilas fell to Chappell who was called back for a short second spell and repaid his skipper’s trust with a fine ball which the Lancashire skipper had to play but nicked to Moores. George Balderson fell to Trego four overs before the close and it was left to Steven Croft, dependable as ever for over a decade, to see his side to the close on 37 not out. He may have to play two big innings on the final day.
And so Croft’s quiet resolution concluded a day’s cricket in which a relatively calm morning had been followed an afternoon and evening in which batsmen arrived at the crease, only to be replaced a few minutes later as though they were Ofqual announcements. The rapid turnover of his own men will not have disturbed Nottinghamshire’s captain Mullaney; rather, he will have regarded it as the acceptable bartering of runs for wickets as he sought a total that would facilitate the enforcement of the follow-on. That objective was achieved. A first-innings score of 472 will surely ensure that the home side will only have to bat once.
The only wicket to fall in the first session was that of Ben Slater, who attempted to work a ball from the admirable Tom Bailey to leg but only thick-edged a low catch to Croft in the gully. The opener could scarcely be too downcast. His 142 was his highest score for Nottinghamshire and it followed the career-best 172 he made for Leicestershire when on loan a fortnight ago. He had batted with great composure and a short season that began with him unsure of where he fitted in at Trent Bridge looks set to end with him established as a first-choice opener.
In the afternoon session Nottinghamshire lost seven batsmen in scoring the 120 runs that gave them almost total control of the game. Resuming on 352 for 3, Joe Clarke and Mullaney immediately sought to pick up the pace of the innings but to do so in a controlled fashion that would see their side make 400 within 110 overs. This objective was achieved although not without the loss of the half-centurion Clarke, who lost his middle stump when trying to hit Balderson through square-leg. Three balls later Trego, having made a single, could only edge Bailey high to Davies’ right, where the wicketkeeper took an athletic, one-handed catch.
Lancashire’s bowlers claimed five further wickets in the session but only after the 110th over, so they did not earn any more bonus points for them and have so far taken one point from this game as against Notts’ seven points. The allocations are not misleading. The freedom with which Moores made a rapid 18 and Matt Carter whacked two sixes in a 14-ball 22 had been earned by the skill and self-denial of Ben Duckett and Slater on Saturday.
Mullaney was last out for 67 on a day when he could be proud of his team. Rather by contrast, the only thing Lancashire have dominated so far was the toss and they had a 50% chance of winning that. As it stands, their best day of this game was the second. It was washed out.