Sussex 565 (Jordan 147, Burgess 146, Archer 72) lead Nottinghamshire 477 (Root 132, Root 124, Gurney 42*) by 88 runs
Moments after Worcestershire had their sixth first innings wicket against Durham, Northamptonshire were bowled out for 202. It wasn’t quite butterflies flapping wings – it had been Worcestershire skipper Joe Leach dismissing Ryan Pringle – however the effects were registered across Division Two, because the boys from New Road sealed promotion. At Hove, there is no announcement, but word soon spread round the ground also to the Nottinghamshire dressing room: the Worcester boys are happy.
With one promotion spot to Worcestershire and Northamptonshire flunking their lines, Notts knew they might take what must have been theirs in the past. For the initial two days, they toiled in the field for five sessions straight in conceding 565 to Sussex, then toiling with the bat for just one session more.
They crumbled to 65 for 5, before scabbing to 108, that is where we began on day three. Nottinghamshire had a need to reach 200 and avoid to defeat, that was easier in theory on a pitch that has been lifting off a length. What followed was a shift so remarkable from the living, breathing and, until tomorrow evening, playing Nottinghamshire legend that it begged the question – “who writes Chris Read‘s scripts?”
Definitely not the person himself: a much too modest sort who, before today, may have lambasted their own form, with a high score of 88 in a Division Two season that lots of thought Nottinghamshire had wrapped up in June. However in Read’s final match, when his team needed him most, in what may be his final innings for the county, Read chalked up his 26th first-class hundred from 116 balls, featuring 13 fours a top-edged six that took him to three figures.
At another end was a knock of equal quality: Billy Root, younger brother of Test captain Joe, stamping their own mark on the overall game with a sharp, impish maiden Championship hundred from 116 balls. (he already had an initial class one in the bag for Leeds & Bradford MCCU, versus Sussex since it happens). A skittish start, which saw him wear a blow on the helmet from Jofra Archer yesterday evening, made method for some fine shots square of the wicket today, as 100 runs were scored in the opening 78 minutes. Read and Root ran rampant to go well beyond that first batting point, gaining 242 to make sure that Nottinghamshire could start focusing, again, on matters within their control.
By stumps, a first-innings deficit of just 88 meant Northamptonshire’s 17 without loss in search of a match-winning 197 was of little interest. Nor, too, attempting to keep coming back tomorrow and force a victory. “It isn’t on top of my agenda!” laughed Read, because the covers were reinforced with rain a threat for the late evening. Funnily enough, he doesn’t mind should they stay on for several of day four, too.
“We began this game seeking to win,” he said. “Once we always do. And we got off to an excellent start to have them 107 for five and thought we’d be right in the hunt to achieve that. Obviously, it had been desperately disappointing yesterday to let them slip from 107 for five to 565! Then for ourselves to slide so badly to 65 for five. You start realigning your goals to state, actually, what do we have to do?” In a hugely successful 2017 where Notts lift the Royal London Cup and the NatWest T20 Blast, promotion because the second-placed team will undoubtedly be trophy enough.
Not everyone who leaves the overall game by themselves terms does so without regrets. Over a global and domestic career spanning 2 decades, 349 first-class matches, 333 one-daters and 110 T20s, Read could have picked up several.
Some will remain with him, like a Test career of 23 innings and just one single fifty. Within an interview with Spin magazine from 2009, he was as open and frank as ever on his 15 Tests: “I had numerous chances to determine myself in the England team and I must accept that I didn’t fully take them.”
But Read took last season’s relegation with a solid Notts side personally. His words in the aftermath spoke of a new player scorned and a guy hurt. He saw the club he loved fall from the area he feels it has a right to be: leading English cricket, holding court at the very top table. He guided them to a Championship win in 2010. And today, along with his last act, has kept his promise to obtain them back again to where they belong.
What awaits the 39-year-old is really a job in the “real life”. The way in which with which he drove down the bottom, particularly inside mid on, suggests another year might possibly not have been beyond him. He’d create a fine addition to the Emergency Services given the amount of fires he’s got released for Nottinghamshire through the years. Instead, a posture as Uppingham School’s director of cricket awaits. You will have tears shed tomorrow when he finally waves goodbye, as there have been today when he reminded everyone of what they’ll be missing.
As effective as Read and Root’s rampage, it had been still right down to numbers 10 and 11 to take Nottinghamshire at night follow-on target. A crisp four from Harry Gurney off Jofra Archer took the score to 415 for nine, one run had a need to ensure Sussex cannot ask the people to bat again. An individual right down to third man from Matt Carter drew cheers from the healthy traveling support.
Without desperate to function as one over your shoulder, letting you know just how many calories come in cheesecake – Read was dropped at midwicket on 70, incidentally – it cannot go unmentioned precisely how bad Sussex were with the ball. Despite starting your day with a lead of 457, only two slips were useful for the majority of the morning, as Luke Wells – stand-in skipper – chosen run-saving instead of wicket-taking positions. He had not been supported by his bowlers, either, who cannot shake themselves out of bowling half-volleys and long-hops. Stuart Whittingham was struggling to discover some of yesterday’s pace.
How else to describe a 10th wicket stand of 73 that saw Gurney, the poster boy for No 11 batsmen, post a fresh personal best of 42 not out before Carter’s wicket, on 33, closed the innings. It gave the scorecard a peculiar look, with Nottinghamshire’s numbers someone to five because the five lowest scorers in the innings. Shortly after, a mist descended on Hove and, at 1715 BST, play was called off for your day. Because of Read, a mist had also long descended upon every Nottinghamshire cricket lover.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is really a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport