Nottinghamshire 302 (Patel 73, Wessels 54, Edwards 4-84) and 389 for 9 dec (Mullaney 130, Taylor 83, Libby 54) beat Hampshire 223 (Amla 69, McManus 66, Patel 3-25) and 265 (Amla 112) by 203 runs
Nottinghamshire have moved 17 points clear at the top of the Division One table after a hard-fought victory over Hampshire at Trent Bridge.
The margin may look comfortable but, such was Hashim Amla‘s determination, the game was deep inside the final session before Hampshire’s hopes of escaping with a draw were denied. On a slow pitch on which dislodging batsman was difficult, Peter Moores, the Nottinghamshire head coach, rated it “as good a win as I’ve seen” in four-day cricket.
It’s not hard to see his point. While some victories – such as last week’s against Worcestershire – are overwhelming, this one was built upon contributions from just about every man in the side. The batsmen scored quickly enough – almost four-and-a-half an over throughout the match – that the bowlers were given enough time to work their way through the opposition line-up. And while each of their four seamers deserves praise, it’s worth nothing that Hampshire’s spinner (Liam Dawson) went for 140 in 31 overs while Nottinghamshire’s (Samit Patel) went for just 48 from 38. He also claimed four wickets.
It was Nottinghamshire’s third victory in four Championship matches this season. Their batting is not, perhaps, the strongest in the division (it will be a surprise if they do not make serious efforts to sign Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke in the next few months) but their seam bowling attack is daunting. And it is seam bowling attacks that tend to win Championships.
No-one was more impressive than Stuart Broad. In this day and age, many experienced international bowlers use these games as little more than middle-practice for more high-profile encounters ahead of them. But Broad demonstrated both his rediscovered potency and his commitment to the club with a series of incisive spells that some regular watchers at this ground felt were his best for this team.
His spells to fellow internationals James Vince and Rilee Rossouw were especially outstanding. With Vince trapped in front the previous night, Rossouw was, at one stage, beaten by four successive deliveries before he edged to first slip. “That was a top-flight international spell,” Moores said. It is, perhaps, the best part of three years since Broad has bowled with such pace and skill.
It is worth reflecting on Moores’ input for a moment, too. It is almost exactly three years since he was sacked by England for the second time and, in some minds, his reputation will never recover from a dire 2015 World Cup campaign. But, a few months after leading his side to the limited-overs double, he has a chance of becoming the first head coach to lead three different county sides to the Championship title; something that has never previously been achieved. His incredible county record cannot be dismissed as chance or coincidence.
It is surely fanciful to suggest he could be considered by England when they go in search of a replacement for Trevor Bayliss in just over a year. But that record and, just as importantly the dignified manner in which he has shrugged off his setbacks and got on with his life, are deeply impressive.
Perhaps, had Steven Mullaney, at third slip, held on to a chance offered by Amla when he had just 13, this match may have ended sometime around lunch. But the catch went down and, as England learned to their cost in 2012, Amla tends to punish such errors.
It was, for much of the day, as if Amla were batting on a different surfaces to his team-mates. While the ball seemed to bounce and nip sharply to the rest of the Hampshire batsmen – both Dawson and Lewis McManus may face spells on the sidelines after sustaining blows to the hand in this game and Kyle Abbott will also have some bruises – Amla had the time and skill to adjust. While Abbott and McManus and Rossouw each resisted for an hour and more, the next highest score on the day was 10. There was a chasm between him and the rest.
If a criticism could be levelled, however, it might be over his inability to farm the strike. Over the course of his innings, he gave the strike to his partner 37 times. In return, they gave it to him just twice. And one of those came on day three, when James Vince pushed a single. By the time his 317 minutes of resistance came to an end – he was last man out, top-edging an attempted pull off Jake Ball – the situation was hopeless.
Earlier Chris Wood was bowled by a beauty in the day’s first over – a delivery from Ball that pitched on middle and hit off – before Dawson was trapped by one that kept low and Abbott caught off the shoulder of the bat by one that reared. Batting was by no means impossible but, every so often, a ball would come along that demanded an almost perfect temperament and technique. For much of the day, Amla provided exactly that, but he lacked the support of his colleagues.