Peter Wynne-Thomas looks back on past meetings between Nottinghamshire and Essex at Trent Bridge.

Leg-break bowlers do have a habit of playing vital roles in contests between Nottinghamshire and Essex. You need only go back to 2003, a bitter memory. The Notts score read seven wickets down, eight runs on the board – was it the third ever worst collapse in Championship history? When the ninth man was out the total had climbed to 19. Nadeem Malik then joined the leg-break bowler, Stuart MacGill. The pair added 60 for the last wicket although inevitably Notts were heavily beaten.

Now for leg-break bowlers who won matches by their bowling. Essex only came to Trent Bridge for the first time in 1901. Essex batted first and made a comfortable enough start against Notts’ regular attack. The Notts captain and opening batsman, A.O.Jones, decided to try his occasional leg breaks. He skittled out Essex, taking 6-26; and claimed another four wickets in the second innings as Notts strode to victory. It was the only time in his 472 first-class matches that Jonah captured 10 wickets in a match.

His 10 wickets was easily outdone when, seven years, later, Notts fast leg break bowler, Topsy Wass took 16 Essex wickets in a single day. 1932 saw young George Gunn – 1932 was the final season of old George Gunn, aged 53 – try out his leg breaks against Essex. He took 7-44 and Essex were all out for 98. Young George was never to repeat such an analysis. In fact the Notts captain, Arthur Carr, had only put Gunn on for a single over in order that his main two bowlers could change ends. Gunn immediately took a wicket and continued to bowl until the end of the innings.

Jumping 22 years forward to 1954, we come to Bruce Dooland, whose leg-breaks dominated the Notts attack for five summers. His most outstanding feat was at Trent Bridge against Essex that year. Essex were all out for 154 and 117, with Dooland’s match figures reading 16-83. If anyone from Essex is reading this, I’d better mention that Sonny Avery carried his bat through their first innings for 92 not out, perhaps the best performance of his career.

In reviewing successful leg-break bowlers it would be remiss to forget the 42-year-old National Health doctor, whom Essex persuaded to turn out for them in 1960. Dr Clarke was a leggie for the old-fashioned looping variety. He captured eight wickets at Trent Bridge and was the architect of his side’s victory.

The climax to the 1965 game is still recalled by many Notts members – according to reports there were crowds of schoolboys present, so you don’t have to be in your dotage to relate the story. Essex had declared on the last afternoon to set Notts 250 to win at 78 runs an hour. The runs came at the required rate, but wickets also fell rather too fast for comfort.

With two overs remaining, Notts required 14 runs and were seven wickets down. Trevor Bailey, the formidable England all-rounder, was bowling to Bomber Wells. Bomber hit the first ball for two, missed the second, hit the third for a towering six, then in attempting another mighty swipe, nicked the ball to the keeper and departed. Andy Corran replaced Wells. The former Oxford man, noted for his mind being elsewhere, played out the rest of the over.

Barry Knight, another England all-rounder, was chosen to bowl the final six balls. Geoff Millman was now facing. A leg bye came off the second ball. Five more needed. Corran obtained a couple off the fourth ball, but missed the fifth. One ball, three runs. Bailey moved all nine fielders to the boundary rope. Corran, expecting a ball outside off, shuffled across as Knight delivered the ball. It was on a length and on the wicket. Corran swung and the ball sailed backward of square leg for six.

The local journalist was still remembering the soccer season. He described Millman as doing a footballer’s jig down the pitch and Corran imitating Denis Law, throwing his arms skyward.

More nail-biting was Essex’s visit the following year. This time Notts were set 201 in two hours. Again Notts went for the runs, but the target was too steep and when the last over was about to be bowled, Notts had two wickets left and no hope of winning. The leg-break bowler, Robin Hobbs, was given the ball. He had Roy Swetman caught off his third delivery. The last man strode out - could he survive three balls? Generally the odds must surely be in the batsman’s favour, but I doubt if the spectators thought so.

The man charged with the task was John Howorth. John holds just one first-class world batting record. He played 13 games for Notts – and never scored a single run! The crowd couldn’t see what happened to those three last deliveries. For Corran nine men had circled the boundary, for Howorth 10 men formed a tight circle around him. Despite a great yell from all 11 Essex men just after the last ball – presumably for leg before – Howorth survived. The match was drawn.

1989 saw Franklyn Stephenson return the best Notts bowling figures since Dooland’s 1954 effort – Franklyn took 15-106 to bring Notts an easy win. Little quiz question, who can name the Notts captain in that game? Even the brothers Goulder might have to think twice!

Notts and Essex last met at Trent Bridge in 2004, when a certain Will Jefferson hit 167 and 100 not out. It was the final match of the season, with Notts already guaranteed of winning the Division Two title. Gallian and Irani agreed a total to chase, both Hussey and Bicknell hit hundreds in the match, with Paul Franks hitting the winning runs off the final ball for a three-wicket victory.

Overall, Essex have won 12 games at Trent Bridge, Notts 16, and there have been 32 draws.