Nottinghamshire 133 and 106 for 5 trail Lancashire 338 (Jennings 126, Davies 50, Broad 4-41) by 99 runs
One minute, Saturday afternoon at Trent Bridge is a little docile and there is little more pressing in life than to study the intricacies of Keaton Jennings‘ wagon wheel (not much down the ground since you ask, which has not harmed one record-breaking England opening batsman who is preparing for yet another international season).
A few minutes later, and Nottinghamshire, having started their second innings 205 behind, are 1 for 3 and the air is rent with the cacophony of jubilant cries from Lancashire fielders, the soundtrack for the first month of the season, all whoops and hollers and gerrin theres. Lancashire have got in – and should win by Sunday lunchtime, arresting Nottinghamshire’s table-topping start to the season in the process.
To turn round such a predicament would need something spectacular. Notts gave few indications that they will manage it as they trimmed the defiicit to 99 by the close of the second day. Samit Patel crashed four fours then drove James Anderson to point and, after a fifth-wicket stand of 68, Riki Wessels became another Graham Onions lbw victim to leave Lancashire relatively unconcerned by the rain that clipped 11 overs from the day.
Peter Moores, Notts’ coach, put the blame on the bowlers, saying: “Sport is funny, we prepped well for this game, we went into it as the last of a mini-series of five matches with a chance to really push on and cement our place at the top of the division but we just haven’t bowled well enough.”
There was not much rhyme or reason to Notts’ concession of three wickets for one run in 10 balls: Steven Mullaney dragged on as he tried to carve Anderson square on the off side, Onions squeezed one through the tiniest gap between bat and pad to bowl Chris Nash and Ross Taylor fell first ball, Onions slanting one back to have him lbw. That was a pair for Taylor, lbw to Onions on both occasions. He fell in the same way against Onions at Old Trafford, too, which is a bit of a pattern.
As for Nash, he is 115 for 9 for the season – his move from Sussex so far not reaping dividends as he becomes the latest batsman to fail to solve Notts’ ever-present top-order frailties. You have to go back to Chris Broad and Tim Robinson a generation ago to find Notts’ last truly established opening pair: highly successful and occasionally crotchety with it. Since then, they always seem to be signing opening batsmen, but have never remotely found a duo like that.
RT Robinson is officiating here. Imperturbable and not given to excess, he probably finds such regular finger raising more attention-seeking than he would wish. As for Broad, his son Stuart was in situ, his 4 for 41 suggesting he was in good rhythm ahead of the Test series against Pakistan (the same is true of Anderson but then it usually is). Broad’s showiest moment was a sharp return catch, diving to his left in his follow-through, to dismiss Dane Vilas.
Another Notts seamer hoping to attract England’s attention returned less impressive figures. Jake Ball remains Division One’s leading wicket-taker, but he could have chosen better days to disappear at five an over. His two wickets included a frustrated short delivery which Jordan Clark, who had played enterprisingly, uppercut to third man.
If England talk should be banned when it comes to Haseeb Hameed, whose task is properly to recalibrate his Lancashire career, it is also premature in the case of Jennings, as fondly as the likes of Andy Flower look upon his upstanding and diligent ways, but he has back-to-back hundreds now on exacting pitches and his game is clearly coming together again.
He had a fifty bagged overnight and, in the second phase of his innings, only the introduction of Patel’s left-arm slows when he was in the 90s disturbed his equanimity. He went from 91 to 95 with a reverse whip, but two balls later edged suspiciously out of his crease and survived a missed stumping. The shot that brought up his hundred was more in keeping as he methodically worked Mullaney into the leg side. His demise came on 126 when he left a straight one from Broad and his off stump whistled out of the ground with the crispness of a stick of celery.
“Different gravy,” Lancashire’s captain Liam Livingstone said of Jennings’ innings. Enough praise perhaps to send him rushing to his urban dictionary to discover exactly what his captain was talking about.