Notts struggle to stem the tide

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Approaching Old Trafford this morning, I passed Canute Road. As the rain bounced off my windscreen and I tried in vain to dodge the puddles, it felt almost prophetic.

Legend has it that King Canute thought he was powerful enough to stop the tide coming in. Alas, he failed, and the feeling persisted that Nottinghamshire’s hopes of LV= County Championship glory would end in similarly damp fashion here.

Having been restricted to a solitary over’s play yesterday due to almost persistent rain, the last thing the Notts players would have been hoping to see when they opened their hotel curtains this morning was even more of the wet stuff.

Needless to say, that is what they got. And some.

A torrential downpour half an hour after the scheduled start this morning left an already saturated pitch waterlogged and consigned the players from both sides - but, crucially, championship leaders Notts - to interested observers for much of the day as events unfolded around the country.

The visitors had probably just got started on their crossword when Somerset claimed a first bowling bonus point at Durham, halving Notts’ advantage at the top of the table.

They may have branched out to a game of cards as Durham slipped to 222 for six before lunch, earning Somerset a share of the lead, and it is a fair bet that more than the occasional Notts player was cursing the skies by the time Charl Willoughby bowled Phil Mustard to give Somerset a full complement of bowling points and take them one point clear at the top.

Old Trafford rain

A familiar scene during a match which Notts will remember for all the wrong reasons if they fail to win the championship

In closing the day on 226 for four at the Emirates Durham ICG, Somerset had taken their tally to four points.

Elsewhere, Yorkshire, who began this round of matches seven points adrift of Notts, eked out two batting and two bowling points against Kent at Headingley Carnegie.

Only the stone-hearted in the crowd at Old Trafford could fail to feel for Notts, although one suspects sympathy was in shorter supply from those Notts fans who have seen their side squander a 16-point lead at the top of the table with three matches to play, including a game in hand.

Notts may not care to admit it, but their attempt at a cricketing Devon Loch has made for a pulsating championship finale, one which looks likely to go down to the final day as three sides scramble for the points that could make the difference.

As is usually the case in the world of sports reporting, the more exciting it is the harder it is to write about, and no sooner has the ink dried (quills are still de rigeur in the Old Trafford press box) on your report, it is time to update it again.

The weather was equally unpredictable (I’ve given up watching the forecast in this part of the world; my advice is to pack shorts and a waterproof wherever you go), and a miserable morning was followed by a glorious afternoon which allowed play to resume at 4pm.

Old Trafford

The sun later played its part in keeping Notts off the pitch after the batsmen complained about the glare off the media centre

As if to add to the surreal nature of this week's cricket, the sun - on strike yesterday - managed to cause a 20-minute delay late on because it was reflecting off top of the media centre at the Stretford End.

Notts reached 89 for two in the 27 overs bowled in the final session - 111 shy of a first batting point - and their immediate task tomorrow will be to make up the ground ceded to Somerset over the last two days.

However well Notts bat on a surface that is already offering appreciable turn to Gary Keedy, it is nigh on impossible to envisage them winning this game without recourse to declarations, forfeited innings and/or contrived targets.

Their actions will de dictated largely by what happens at the Emirates Durham ICG and, increasingly, Headingley Carnegie, which appears the most likely venue of the three to throw up a positive result.

It seems futile - and not advisable in the current climate - taking punts on what might happen in the next 48 hours so, at the risk of getting my collar felt by Scotland Yard, I’ll simply predict that the championship lead will change hands again at some point.

It might make things trickier for us reporters, but it is nothing compared to the pain that Notts will feel if the weather ends up denying them a title that looked likely to be heading to Trent Bridge for much of the second half of the season.