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Gareth Roderick, Brett D’Oliveira make Nottinghamshire wait for fulfilment

Worcestershire 297 for 7 (Roderick 91*, D’Oliveira 85, Ball 3-41) vs. Nottinghamshire

At once elegiac and urgent, September’s cricket matches autumn’s benign deception. For some players and almost half of the first-class counties, the shape of their seasons is clear. All that remains is personal pride and the hope of taking a few wins into the winter. For other cricketers, Nottinghamshire among them, there is the prospect of glory and the achievement of ambitions that have been nurtured since November.

Steven Mullaney’s side went into this game needing ten points to guarantee promotion and 22 to win the Second Division outright, so it was only to be expected that Mullaney would ask Worcestershire to strike on a morning when a pale sun did nothing to pacify a greenish New Road pitch. And there was no surprise either when Nottinghamshire’s seamers took five wickets in the morning session, leaving their side well placed to establish a match-shaping advantage. However, this is chameleon season. It begins with the generosity of summer before ending in poignant darkness. “In the edge of the days, in the confluence of the tides, in the vague lapping and lap-backing of the mid-seasons is autumn,” wrote Horatio Clare. “It can be obvious, a greeting of flaming foliage, or disguised, slipping in behind distractions.”
Nottinghamshire’s advantage was clear enough when the afternoon session began, but it would be more than four hours before they enjoyed another success and when Brett D’Oliveira’s attempted drive gave Jake Ball his third wicket and Tom Moores his third catch of the day nature. had changed completely. D’Oliveira’s 85, his first fifty-plus score in red-ball cricket since June, and his 169-run sixth-wicket stand with Gareth Roderick had shown us that this would be a very different game to the one Mullaney’s bowlers certainly had counted on a morning when they were hungry, their ties were ravenous, and the outfielders were chasing balls as if their October golf depended on it.

There was nothing accidental about Worcestershire’s recovery. Ed Barnard’s drop to the ball before lunch might have prepared the home supporters for further comebacks in the afternoon, but D’Oliveira and Roderick were having none of it. They played themselves back in, adapted to the easy conditions and before long Roderick was slipping the ball through the leg side as D’Oliveira shaped his drives or cuts through. Liam Patterson-White bowled his left-arm slow tight, albeit without much threat, and it said something about the shifting balance of the innings that Mullaney needed a spinner at all.

Although Patterson-White picked up more lift from the New Road pitch than the batsmen seemed to expect, there was nothing to trouble the Worcestershire pair and with a start it was noted that the home side had collected another bonus point ahead of their visitors. Mullaney took the second new ball, which he surely thought he would not claim, and quickly reaped dividends, first with the dismissal of D’Oliveira and then when Brett Hutton had Matthew Waite lbw for 5.

But the night ended with Roderick unbeaten on 91 and New Road beaming in the golden light of a late autumn afternoon. Such a conclusion seemed absurdly improbable when one remembered a morning when the sun was barely visible and there was a hint of amber in the trees of Bromwich Parade. It was a bowler’s day for any money and one doubts Mullaney hesitated long before betting on his seams. They also offered early return.

Ed Pollock tried to get off the mark with a massive drive at a wide delivery from Ball but only inside edges the ball on his off stump. Two overs later, Ball took his second wicket when Azhar Ali feathered a lifting delivery to Moore’s two balls after collecting his only boundary with a nick through tie. Half an hour later, Dane Paterson brought one back from the pitch and claimed his 50th wicket of the season when the ball thumped into Jake Libby’s pad.

Worcestershire’s batsmen battled on, often tickling the ball to the unoccupied fine-leg boundary. The only member of the top order who did not need that resource was Jack Haynes, whose cover drives from Ball and Paterson were the most pleasing of the session. But after hitting five boundaries in his 38, Haynes half-forwarded to Mullaney’s fourth ball of the morning and was well caught by Moores, who stood up. Having been put in, D’Oliveira might have accepted 99 for 4 at lunch, but Barnard’s defensive shot against Paterson’s last possible ball of the morning set up a catch for Matthew Montgomery at second slip. A couple of Worcestershire supporters ate glumly at lunch, never guessing the late-season riches that were to follow.

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