Chris Read is enjoying a success-laden season © Getty Images
Nottinghamshire 508 (Hales 218, Read 75, Mullaney 50) beat Derbyshire 220 (Hughes 55*, Hutton 5-52) and 227 (Hutton 5-54) by an innings and 61 runs
It is every retiring cricketer’s wish to leave the game in a winning moment and the fulfillment of that aspiration is within touching distance for Chris Read now after Nottinghamshire escaped the ravages of the weather to complete a comprehensive win over their nearest neighbours.
Brett Hutton delivered the key performance with the ball against Derbyshire, taking five wickets for the second time in the match.
Read, Notts’ veteran wicketkeeper and captain, may not have a third Championship to celebrate when he plays his final first-class match next month but promotion as champions from Division Two would not be a bad consolation, particularly with the Royal London One-Day Cup already in the trophy cabinet.
Not to forget a potential Nottinghamshire tilt at the NatWest Blast, even if Read himself has retired from that format.
With a lead of 50 points over third-placed Northamptonshire and four matches remaining, it is hard to imagine any other outcome to Read’s valedictory year, from which he will also take the Nottinghamshire record for most wicketkeeping dismissals, which he claimed with the first of his two catches on the final afternoon.
It took him to 968 victims, overtaking Thomas Oates, born not too far from here in the mining town of Eastwood, who numbered 967 in a career that ran from 1897 to 1925. The breakdown of those figures reflects how different the game is today. Of Oates’s total, 744 were catches and 223 stumpings, compared with 924 catches and just 44 stumpings by Read.
Read, on the eve of his 39th birthday, looked no less mobile behind the stumps than he did when he made his Nottinghamshire debut in 1998, diving to his right to grasp the ball as Mark Footitt induced an edge from Gary Wilson.
“I’ve been aware of the milestone and it is an honour of which I’m immensely proud because Thomas Oates clearly played a lot of cricket and was a great servant to the club,” Read said, admitting that his last season could hardly be progressing better.
“I’m ecstatic with the way things are going. We set ourselves some aims and goals and so far we are going a long way to achieving those. Primarily that is getting promotion to Division One, and we are in a good position to do that, while winning the 50-over competition was brilliant.
“To win this game after losing a day and a session was a tremendous effort. Alex Hales’ knock on day two was phenomenal but the headlines should belong to Brett Hutton, who got more out of the pitch than anyone else in both innings.
“It was bitterly disappointing to get relegated last year but I’m looking forward to finishing off in style with promotion and get back to where we belong.”
Read, who will leave the professional game to be director of cricket at Uppingham School, is not dwelling on how he might feel when the curtain does finally come down for good.
“No I’m not thinking about it massively,” he said. “We know we have to keep putting in the performances and after the T20 group stages and quarter-finals are out of the way we have two massive home games against sides in the top four, so we can’t let any complacency come in.”
Aside from Read, the man of the hour for Nottinghamshire was the seamer Hutton, who chose a good moment, given that his team are reaching the climax of the season without three of those bowlers – Stuart Broad, James Pattinson and Luke Fetcher – who were first-choice picks at the beginning, to find his best form.
Hutton, who took five for 52 in the first innings, finished with 10 for 126 in the match in his fifth Championship appearance of the year, almost equalling his tally in the first four as Nottinghamshire made sure Hales’s brilliant 218 off 218 balls did not go to waste.
In addition to Read, Hutton and Hales, Nottinghamshire ought to raise a glass too to the Derbyshire groundstaff, whose efforts to make the ground fit after 24 hours of almost continuous rainfall gave them 75 overs from one o’clock in which to take the nine wickets needed to complete a sixth win of the season, which they achieved with 12.1 to spare.
For the first hour and 20 minutes, it seemed Derbyshire might deny them as Ben Slater and captain Billy Godleman extended their second-wicket partnership, which had reached 31 at the end of day two before rain the weather washed away day three, to 96 without encountering too many problems.
But then Slater, drawn into playing at a full length ball from Hutton that swung late, edging to Riki Wessels at second slip, and after Godleman, seven overs later, was superbly caught by a running and diving Hutton at extra cover, pushing at one from left-arm spinner Samit Patel, the innings never recovered.
After breaking the Oates record – to give Footitt his fourth wicket of the match against the county that enjoyed his best years so far – Read added another to the collection with a more routine take as a terrific ball from Jake Ball proved too good for Harvey Hosein.
Wayne Madsen, coming in at five down after suffering with an upset stomach, was bowled by Hutton off an inside edge and, after Hardus Viljoen had played over one from Ball, Hutton wrapped things up after a small measure of late defiance from the tail, pinning Tom Taylor in front as he played around one and taking out Tony Palladino’s off stump.
Godleman, whose side had been denied an almost certain victory over Nottinghamshire by the weather when they went to Trent Bridge earlier in the season, felt his side had played poorly this time.
“There was still a small bit in the wicket for the seamers but we felt we were capable of batting it out and saving the game and we should have found a way to not lose the game,” he said.
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