Nottinghamshire produced an astonishing performance to defeat Northamptonshire by an innings and 10 runs on the final day of their LV= county championship match at Trent Bridge.
Thanks to an explosive innings of 158 from Riki Wessels, the home side were able to declare their first innings closed on 409-8, before bowling the visitors out for just 151.
Wessels was understandably delighted at his achievement, despite there not being a man of the match award. “That’s not important,” he laughed, “I’ll quite settle for winning the match. That is just the perfect way to cap off a day like this.”
The century was Wessels’ 15th in first class cricket – but his first for two years. “It’s been awhile, it was a bit of a tough season for me last year. We had plans last night as to how we wanted to go about it today and it all worked out perfectly for us.”
During the final morning Wessels pressed the accelerator as he raced to his 150, in an innings that saw him face 152 balls, with 14 fours and 8 enormous sixes, with Andrew Hall feeling the wrath of his onslaught.
“It did help that he kept putting ball after ball in the same place, so I just kept swinging as hard as I could.”
Wessels, of course, began his career at Northants and this was the first time he’d played against them in championship cricket. “It was nice to get runs against my old county. I’ve a lot of respect for Rips (Head Coach David Ripley), who was there when I was there and helped me greatly, especially with my wicketkeeping.”
Wessels found a useful ally in Ajmal Shahzad, who helped add 107 for the eighth wicket. Shahzad had an excellent day, scoring 36 not out and then taking 4-46, his best figures for Notts.
“It’s taken a year for me to have a day like that for Notts,” he admitted. “The other lads laid the foundations but it was nice to go out there and score some runs but Riki played out of his skin.”
The day began with Notts holding a slender 11-run advantage, at 259-5 in their first innings, with Riki Wessels and Chris Read the not out overnight batsmen.
A fairly cautious twenty minutes allowed both players to settle into their task but it was swiftly followed by some of the most ferocious hitting Trent Bridge can ever have witnessed.
In 75 minutes Notts added 150 runs, 80 of them alone coming to Wessels, who was eventually last out. Read (31) picked out Rob Newton on the fence at deep midwicket after pulling a short ball from Andrew Hall – and Peter Siddle (4) fell to the spin of Middlebrook, nudging him into the hands of Hall at slip.
It had been Hall who had dropped Wessels, the previous day, when he had been on 22. That error grew costlier by the second as the former Northamptonshire player flayed his old county with some of the most belligerent hitting imaginable.
He hit seven sixes during his whirlwind blitz, to add to the one he’d hit on day three. Hall was the bowler to be most savagely treated – belted over the ropes on five separate occasions – three of them from consecutive balls.
Azharullah and Maurice Chambers also went the distance, with Shahzad (36 not out) chiming in with another huge blow, off Middlebrook. Wessels’ scintillating knock ended when he holed out to Steven Crook off Azharullah, at which point the declaration arrived.
Shahzad’s fine morning continued, as he then removed Middlebrook (4), with umpire Gough taking an eternity before giving the lbw decision.
Patience was certainly going to be the key after lunch but home hopes were soon lifted as Siddle picked up three wickets, in overs 13, 17 and 19.
His first scalp was Steven Peters (24), who, judging by the celebrations, seemed to succumb to a deliberate plan as he chipped the Australian to Andre Adams at square leg. David Sales (19) was bowled for the second time in the match and Matt Spriegel (12) was given out lbw.
A frustrating eleven overs passed before the next dismissal, with Newton (19) offering a caught and bowled to Adams and the cherry on top of the cake in the afternoon session was again applied by Siddle.
Ben Duckett (4) checked a drive, which was initially parried before being taken at the second attempt by the alert Victorian.
Notts didn’t have to wait too long for their next lift, as the match moved into the final session. The first ball after tea saw Hall (27) perish in actually the same manner as he had on the second day, caught behind off Shahzad.
The bowler’s exuberance was understandable and was repeated two balls later as he blasted his way through David Murphy’s (0) defences.
“It was good to get Hall when I did,” said Shahzad afterwards. “He’s a big player for them and Murphy is a capable bat but I was very pleased as they were a decent couple of balls to send down.”
It began to look as if Notts might have to bat again as Steven Crook (23) and Maurice Chambers (7) ground out a stand of 26 in 6 overs but an inspired change saw Samit Patel take a caught and bowled – with a high loopy full toss – to dismiss Crook and then Shahzad finished it off by trapping Chambers.
The victory was Nottinghamshire’s first 24-point haul since beating Durham in May 2010 and lifts them to fourth in the table, only 7 points behind leaders Yorkshire.