Notts take title in thrilling finale
Nottinghamshire snatched the LV= County Championship title from Somerset's grasp in one of the most pulsating finales to a season in living memory.
By claiming a third Lancashire wicket, Notts secured the crucial bowling point, taking their tally of bonus points for the game to six.
A draw yielded a further three and lifted them level on points with Somerset. The title was Notts' by virtue of their having won more games.
Victory, achieved at 4.52pm - less than an hour before the end of a campaign that began on April 9 - when Andre Adams had Shivnarine Chanderpaul taken at third slip by Samit Patel, capped a thrilling conclusion to a final round of matches that has constantly challenged the realms of possibility.
Notts went into the last day of a remarkable summer requiring at least nine points, and relying on Somerset and Yorkshire not winning.
If Yorkshire’s challenge ended with a shock defeat to Kent in early afternoon, Somerset’s failure to beat a defiant Durham side was not confirmed until Notts had begun their pursuit of wickets.
Ryan Sidebottom capped his Notts career - he failed to agree terms on a new contract - by removing Karl Brown before Adams accounted for Mark Chilton and Chanderpaul to spark jubilant scenes on the pitch and the dressing room balcony.
Patel not only took the winning catch, but scored a blistering 96 off 91 balls which, alongside Adam Voges’ rather more composed 126, proved central to Notts achieving their initial ambition of scoring 400.
Their stand of 153 for the fifth wicket inside 28 overs was the centrepiece of an innings that ended amid high drama and with nerves frayed as the last-wicket pair of Sidebottom and Darren Pattinson helped Notts scrape a fifth batting point.
That left them with 18 overs in which to take three Lancashire wickets. They needed just 4.4.
With the exception of Somerset and Yorkshire followers, no-one can begrudge Notts their moment in the sun – literally, given that three miserable days in Manchester made way for gloriously clear skies this afternoon.
They have won more games than any other side this season, and were crowned champions by wholly admirable means today – backing their own ability with bat and ball rather than relying on Lancashire failing in a contrived run-chase which would have required forfeited innings and pre-arranged targets.
The prospect of either appeared unlikely, to say the least, yesterday evening – and became highly improbable after the loss of 16 overs – taking the tally to 276 in the game – this morning, overnight rain having delayed the start until 11.35am.
Mark Wagh and Voges were the men initially charged with scoring quickly, adding a further 55 in little more than eight overs.
Wagh, however, perished for 32 when he was bowled playing back to a Sajid Mahmood delivery that nipped back and kept a shade low, a rare example of uneven bounce on a pitch that remained true but offered appreciable turn.
Mahmood also accounted for Ali Brown, adjudged lbw despite a suggestion of inside edge, on the stroke of lunch, but Voges – five not out overnight – and Patel took charge thereafter, the Australia supplying the calm authority to Patel’s powerful strokeplay.
Voges accumulated with apparent ease, primarily against the twin threat of left-arm spinners Gary Keedy and Simon Kerrigan, to whom he used his feet superbly to drive down the ground and over wide mid-on.
Patel, meanwhile, favoured the extra-cover region with a succession of meaty blows, although he was fortunate to see Mark Chilton spill a devilishly tough chance over his shoulder at mid-on when he had made 61.
His ambitions eventually got the better of him when, charging Kerrigan, he was smartly taken by a tumbling Kyle Hogg running in from long-off.
Patel had struck 11 fours, and a glorious straight six off Keedy, before departing in the over Voges went to a 151-ball century.
Although Nottinghamshire had passed 350 – and garnered a fourth batting point – by the time Chris Read skied Kerrigan to Hogg at mid-off, they were then beset by a bout of nerves.
Former Lancashire all-rounder Steven Mullaney was caught behind cutting, Voges drove to long-off, where Steven Croft took a fine catch diving forward, and Adams was bowled aiming to clear deep midwicket. Kerrigan, the 21-year-old, finished with 5-80.
At 490 for nine, Notts’ championship ambitions effectively rested on their scoring a further 10 runs – six Lancashire wickets to earn a second bowling point would surely have been too big an ask.
But Sidebottom and Pattinson eked out enough singles to complete the job - in a shade under 90 overs.
If the first three, rather uneventful overs of the Lancashire innings suggested Notts’ task with the ball would be a stiff one, that notion was banished within the space of eight balls.
Sidebottom located Brown’s outside edge to give Alex Hales a straightforward catch at first slip; Chilton - undone by extra bounce and movement off the pitch - was caught behind; and, after a very brief shower raised the cruel prospect of the weather having the final, crucial word, Chanderpaul fenced at one that was angled across him.
It gave Adams, Notts’ most potent bowler this summer, a 68th championship wicket, but any individual achievements were soon forgotten as he was mobbed by 10 screaming team-mates.