Notts suffer trademark collapse but stutter to survival regardless

Lift-off: Craig Overton celebrates Getty Images

Nottinghamshire 133 (C Overton 4-27) and 115 for 3 (Mullaney 54) trail Somerset 463 (J Overton 55, Gurney 6-106) by 215 runs
Scorecard

As escapes from relegation go, Nottinghamshire's survival at Trent Bridge could not have been less heroic. It will probably prove to be the case that they are only staying up because when it came to the crunch, down in Southampton, Lancashire messed up. But it will be a shame-faced escape: trailing Somerset by 215 with seven wickets remaining, having been made to follow on, the odds are they will lose and lose heavily.

Nottinghamshire bounced back into Division One in the spring with such vigour they found themselves top of the table, the most dangerous seam attack around - Stuart Broad, Jake Ball and Harry Gurney - disguising the fact that they could barely make a run.

Perhaps by the time the Championship resumed with their England players absent they had happened upon the website which suggests the best way to survive your most pressing moments in life is to slap yourself in the face - hard. Notts make a habit of that in late season. They could make it into some sort of weird East Midlands Morris Dance and, now the season lasts until the end of September, they might as well all hang around a few days longer to perform it at the Nottingham Goose Fair.

As Nottinghamshire's first innings underwent a by-now-traditional collapse on the second day, failing to deliver a single batting point for the seventh time in 14 matches, the dreadful realisation dawned shortly after lunch that relegation had become a stark possibility. In the rush to the top of Division One in April, they had merely been squirreling points for the harsh times that lay ahead: no wins in their last six, all adding to a September record over the past nine years that extends to one win in 22.

Last year, before Chris Read intervened with a magnificent farewell hundred, it might have cost them promotion; this year, for an abysmal half-hour or so, it looked likely to send them back down. As long as Lancashire were on course for 300 against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, and then followed that up with victory, Nottinghamshire were heading for relegation. Then Lancashire lost their last three wickets on 273 to fall 27 runs short. With one bound Notts were free. Feeble cheers bubbled up around Trent Bridge.

Their collapse to 133 all out in 35.3 overs, the tail rounded up by a Tom Abell hat-trick - three outswingers falling to second, first and third slip in turn - was even more embarrassing considering that Somerset had rattled up 353 for 7 on the opening day in decent batting conditions and then had thrashed 110 in 17.1 overs on the second morning, Craig Overton setting the tone with a four and a six off the offspinner, Matt Carter, whose appearance for a single over was something of a mystery.

The Overton mayhem was carried forward by Jamie, who cracked 55 from 49 balls; when he hits down the order like this, the scoreboard should flash up Fee Fi Fo Fum, because he does not lack for raw physical power.

Nottinghamshire lost Jake Libby early when he nicked the second ball of Lewis Gregory's opening over to fourth slip, where Jack Leach parried the ball to Craig Overton at third. But they reached 50 for 1 sedately enough before crashing to 85 for 7, a period in which relegation fears rose and fell like the FTSE responding to the latest Brexit rumour.

Either side of lunch Craig Overton picked up key wickets with successive balls. Steven Mullaney made 21 before nicking to James Hildreth at first slip and then Ben Duckett made a first-ball duck, edging a ball of challenging line to Marcus Trescothick at second slip.

This being the Overtons, an unpredictable tale of country folk, twin brother Jamie limped off half way through an over with a turned ankle only to return later off a limited run. Rarely do both prosper at the same time without some mishap or other. But Craig, whose injury-hit season has seen his England reputation dwindle after a determined if not particularly successful Ashes campaign, bowled both Riki Wessels and Ben Slater and Lewis Gregory removed both Samit Patel and Tom Moores.

Abell then introduced himself into the attack, adopted the outswinger grip with a characteristic air of youthful optimism and walked off the field nine balls later, with the ball being held aloft for his maiden hat-trick. That simple.

If Nottinghamshire can take consolation from their latest debacle -- it is that it provided ample evidence that their splurge of late-season signings, perhaps a rush unknown in the history of the county game, are not an irresponsible spending spree but are absolutely necessary.

Slater has acquitted himself well since his move from Derbyshire, played securely as he joint top-scored with 35; the sooner Duckett's season ends the better. The period of reflection that many of us anticipated would lead to a strong summer has not materialised.

Joe Clarke arrives at the end of the season from Worcestershire with England aspirations, and Zak Chappell is a promising if vulnerable quick, enticed from Leicestershire. Assuming the talented allrounder Paul Coughlin is fully fit next April then Notts have filled a huge hole left by the sudden loss of the Read, an inspiration, the Taylors, James and Brendan, Michael Lumb, Brett Hutton and others; Alex Hales, too, is now a white-ball specialist, playing only when the overs are short and the weather is warm.

Why they have recruited so heavily is clear to see but that does not alter the fact that county cricket's compensation system is inadequate. At a time when the ECB shows scant regard for the smaller counties, it is by no means certain they will address the issue.

Notts 3rd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st17BT SlaterJD Libby
2nd97SJ MullaneyBT Slater
3rd1LJ FletcherBT Slater
4th4BT SlaterBM Duckett
5th0SR PatelBM Duckett
6th0MH WesselsBM Duckett
7th30BM DuckettTJ Moores
8th8L WoodTJ Moores
9th14M CarterTJ Moores
10th13HF GurneyM Carter