Nottinghamshire began the new season in style after securing a 45-run victory over Lancashire at Trent Bridge. Having been set to score 349, for an unlikely success, the visitors were finally dismissed for 303 with only 11.1 overs remaining in the contest.
Ashwell Prince and Tom Smith battled hard for the Red Rose, adding 147 together for the seventh wicket, before falling to the second new ball. Harry Gurney, with 4-81, was the pick of the Notts attack, clinching the win with the crucial final wicket of Prince, who made exactly 100. Luke Fletcher also took two of the final wickets to fall, ending with 2-29.
Understandably Mick Newell, director of cricket, was delighted by the outcome. “Obviously I’m very pleased,” he said. “When we had them 112-6 we were more than halfway to the win but I thought Prince and Smith played very well and Lancashire will take some positives but ultimately the points are ours and that’s the most important thing.
“When they only required 120-130 you start getting a bit edgy but you know the second new ball is coming, so it was important for us to use it really well – and Fletch, in the whole match has used it well.”
Newell paid tribute to Gurney, plus two of the bowlers who might not have featured if either Peter Siddle or Andre Adams had been available.
“Carts (Andy Carter) has had a good game, he’s got an unusual action, he roughs people up a little bit. He’s a bit different and Jake (Ball), I thought, bowled some of the best balls in the game.”
Beginning the day on 7-1, with their nightwatchman Simon Kerrigan accompanying Paul Horton, Lancashire’s only hope was to subdue the home attack with lengthy partnerships and they found one immediately.
Although Kerrigan was dropped in the third over of the morning, steering Harry Gurney to Michael Lumb in the gully, he played some crisp leg-side flicks in supporting his captain for around eighty minutes.
It was Horton, in fact, who was the first to fall, after a stand of 70. Cloudy overhead conditions heralded the start of Jake Ball’s first bowl of the innings and the 23-year old responded with a delivery which kissed the outside edge of Horton’s bat (41) on it’s way through to Chris Read.
The Notts skipper had been rewarded with his bowling changes in the first innings and the decision to opt for the spin of Samit Patel then accounted for Andrea Agathangelou (4), caught by Wessels at slip, and Kerrigan (33), given out lbw.
A rare missed stumping, when Ashwell Prince had 6, deprived Patel of a third wicket but Notts were soon celebrating again as the Ball / Read combination accounted for Luke Procter (0).
The afternoon session was dominated by a stirring stand between Prince and Tom Smith. They came together after Gurney had removed Davies 913) to another Read catch.
Prince, who was spared for a second time on 18 (Ball unable to hold a difficult drive off Carter) was first to a half century (69 balls 8x4) but Smith soon matched him, getting there with his 10th boundary.
The momentum began to slide towards Lancashire as the stand passed three figures but the second new ball was always on the horizon and remained a key cause for optimism for the bowlers.
When it was taken, with 25 overs remaining in the day, Luke Fletcher stood up to be counted and grabbed the wicket of Smith (76). With just his second ball with the new cherry the big fast bowler found an outside edge and Read did the rest, ending a stand of 147.
Fletcher then accounted for Wayne White (4) also, sent on his way by an lbw verdict before Gurney closed out the contest.
Initially, the left-armer removed Kabir Ali (7), who clipped to Alex Hales and square leg. Prince wasn’t to go down without trying. He pulled Andy Carter for a six to move to 99 then, after watching James Anderson play out an over, he took the single to reach a very well-crafted century (240 minutes, 176 balls 12x4 1x6).
Without adding to his three figure score, Prince then moved across the line to try and heave Gurney away – fatally exposing his leg stump. Nottinghamshire’s celebrations were understandable – their first home win since beating Surrey in mid-May last year.