Playing like chumps Notts champs?

We reach Day 4 of Essex v Nottinghamshire in the County Championship with Essex starting at 86/4 needing a total of 441 to win! Ok, that’s not realistic given the poor batting performances seen from Essex so far this year but resistance from the middle order – Bopara and Wheater, to lesser extent Coles, Harmer and Wagner – is needed to show some mettle.

Porter – virtues as a bowler were extoled yesterday – took his role as night watchman seriously and hung around for a time but losing Bopara very early on (caught by the sub-wicketkeeper for today Tom Kest off the nippy Matt Milnes) showed the lack of backbone and application.

The game is in the mind and whilst the target was way off in the distance, Bopara fell to the old ‘one/two’ trick from young Mr Milnes – a well pitched up delivery striking the pad for  good lbw appeal as the first ball, the second in Sir Geoffrey’s corridor again pitched nicely and Ravi couldn’t resist a nibble – as they say done like a kipper!

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Bopara – kippered!

The rest followed – Wheater tried, Harmer looks out of sorts in this game with both ball and bat, Coles has more of a reputation than a record to speak of, Quinn was regarded as the ubiquitous rabbit at #11 but Wagner could be relied on to hang around and strike a few runs.

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Wheater tried whilst Harmer struggled

It was clear that Essex were going to lose – and they did by 301 runs – but there was some very odd play towards the end; maidens followed maidens, runs were declined when they were there for the taking and whilst Quinn may not be known for his batting, he seemed competent and for fellow Kiwi Wagner to treat him in this way was inexplicable.

Body language speaks more wider and more loudly on most occasions than verbally and Wagner’s body language implied to me that a) he didn’t want to be there and b) if there’s a ‘work to rule’ approach of doing the minimum and with less than good grace, then that was Neil today. I may be reading more into his body language than is there but it’s clear nonetheless that all is not well. He did not back up ready to run for any other batsman, leaned on his bat and crossed his legs as if he’s strolled up a hill and wanted to admire the view. All very odd and baffling to the spectators – around 500 of us turned up to watch (and why do we..? knowing full well that the cause for Essex was hopeless? Perhaps that’s another subject for another time?).

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But what is clear is that whilst the champs were playing like chumps and have been doing so since day 1, Notts secured an excellent victory and their first at Chelmsford it seems since 1984?

The only team in Division 1 I haven’t seen in Championship action so far this season is Somerset (to be remedied next week) but to me the best organised teams and squads, and best consistently performing ones too, are Surrey and Notts. It would not surprise me to see these two taking a good lead as the summer progresses and nor would it be a surprise if Notts emulated Essex’s performances of 2016 and 2017 – Champions of Division Two in one year, promoted and Division One Champions the next.

But what do I know? I’ve been watching cricket for over five decades and still don’t always understand what’s going on – and Wagner today was baffling everyone – but that’s the attraction and why we all keep going back to watch more and more!

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Harry Gurney found pace and dust from the pitch

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And the winning catch – the first victory by Notts over Essex at Chelmsford since 1984? (even before I started watching Essex ‘live’!)