As Westley’s announcement alarmed Notts, Essex took the lead, if not the points

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Tom Westley made a surprising declaration at tea after scoring 95

The drop in the number of points awarded for a draw from eight to five this season in the County Championship has received the least attention. (In fact, some pessimists claim that Lancashire, who have played five matches and drawn five of them, hasn’t yet noticed the change.) 

Although it may seem like a small change, it has inspired several attacking statements from skippers who, in previous years, would have chosen the security of shared honors. But not every captain is fortunate enough to have an Alastair Cook or Simon Harmer by his side.

The conclusion of this tie game at Trent Bridge implies that such innovative tactical thinking may become increasingly prevalent. 

Essex was 362 for 8 when the players walked in for tea, and many home supporters were most worried that their bowlers would quickly take the final two wickets, allowing them a chance to score, say, 230 to win the match. 

Imagine the shock among the good people of Bilborough and Bulwell when it was revealed that Tom Westley had declared and that Nottinghamshire would need to score 219 in 39 over to win the match and move them up to second in the Division One table, level on points with Warwickshire and Hampshire.

Imagine the confusion it produced among people who had just spent the evening watching association football 500 yards away if all of this challenged the abilities of fans who were healthy in mind and body. 

Because of the Forest fiesta that had just concluded on the Meadows and Clifton estates, everyone stayed up that night, including their squad, which made it possible for them to throw a very massive celebration with no holds barred. In “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Johnny Cash highlighted the effects of such consumption in rather obvious terms.

However, nobody knew where this match was headed just after tea. Haseeb Hameed was caught behind off a beautiful ball bowled by Sam Cook in the fifth over of the innings, but Hameed’s highlight reel doesn’t feature many crazy run chases. 

The possibility that Essex could really be able to bowl Nottinghamshire out grew after the same bowler sent one back into Ben Slater’s off pole ten minutes later. Nothing dispelled them more than the arrival of offspinner Harmer, who lumbers up to the wicket like an insurance salesman pitching a dubious policy.

Matt Montgomery, who was deep in his crease and was leg before for 22 when Joe Clarke struck the best slow bowler in England for three beautiful boundaries, was overcome by Harmer’s barrage of rip from the Radcliffe Road End.

Nottinghamshire needed 156 runs with 17 overs remaining, or 9.1 runs per over, but now that Westley had lined up six close fielders for Harmer, it was obvious who would be sitting in the ten-bob seats. When Lyndon James should have moved ahead and back to the offspinner, he was bumped on the off stump. With 14 overs remaining, seven of them by Harmer, Notts was currently at 70 for 4.

It turned out that we had enjoyed the last show of the day. Mullaney pulled his usual guts out, while Clarke batted superbly against type for an undefeated 42. Mullaney’s every defensive push exuded green-and-gold tenacity. 

With five more overs to bowl, the draw was agreed upon, but it was fascinating, though fruitless, to speculate as to what would have happened if either Clarke or Mullaney, their side’s final specialist batsmen, had been dismissed twenty minutes earlier.

It’s also intriguing to consider how Essex’s fleeting victory tilt was made possible not just by Westley’s initiative and Harmer’s talent but also by the patience of the captain during his 157-run partnership with Alastair Cook. Unfortunately, neither batter reached the century he deserved. 

Just before noon, Cook was out for 99 after making one of those awful close-to-the-body steers to third man that seem terrible until you assume he has long before calculated the danger vs. return ratio. The situation still appears terrible, but one comes to the conclusion that if a man has run over 26,000 first-class miles, he may actually be an expert in his field. 

But this morning, he tried it with a ball from James that edged and jagged back on its way to Clarke, who grabbed a tumbling catch.

The new ball provided Nottinghamshire their best opportunity to cause significant damage four overs later, but they only managed to take out one wicket, Westley, who had persevered for more than four hours and 95 runs before being defeated by a strong delivery from Stuart Broad that seemed away. 

By lunch, Nottinghamshire had a 114-run advantage, but there were still 12 overs remaining and enough time for them to win provided they could go bang-bang-bang—or any other Eurovision entry—early enough in the afternoon session.

They made quick progress, but only after an hour, when Essex’s lead had become so big that Westley preferred to take a risky dart at 16 points rather than settle for five. 

Following a 56-run partnership with Lawrence, Matt Critchley played on to James for 20 runs, and six run-less balls later, Adam Rossington chipped a return catch to Calvin Harrison. Mullaney, a restless thinker, introduced his own medium pace from the Pavilion End, and with his eighth ball, Lawrence was playing carelessly across the line. 

With 49 overs remaining in the match, Essex was 319 for 6, 175 up thanks to Tom Lungley’s quick decision. 

Here comes Shane Snater, a cricketer who is normally unaffected by a defensive strategy and unbothered by regrets. And a bloody hazardous one at that. Harrison’s first two balls were blasted by the No. 8 over the far square-leg boundary. The second would have done so only if Slater had come from Brobdingnag as opposed to Chesterfield. The first of them took a diving Slater with it. 

Harmer followed Snater’s lead, scoring 24 runs in just over two overs. Could Essex be considering declaring? someone asked. “Rubbish,” was the reply. After another massive smear at Harrison, Snater was bowled for 18 runs. Westley made a declaration as the players entered for tea.