Notts barely cling on in disastrous final session
Nottinghamshire 188 and 181 for 8 (Coad 4 -55) require a further 222 runs to beat Yorkshire 256 and 334 (Ballance 82, Bresnan 68*)
On the eve of the 2018 season, Liam Plunkett and David Willey were both India-bound, favouring the lucrative IPL over their duties in the Championship. Yorkshire's pace line-up was further depleted with injuries. If they needed someone like Ben Coad to step up to the plate, it was now.
Now was delivered with aplomb. Such was his impact with three wickets in an incisive new-ball spell that Yorkshire found themselves taking the extra half-hour to force an unexpected three-day win. They failed, but Nottinghamshire were eight down at the close, 181 for 8 chasing 403 the result of a disastrous final session.
Coad finished with four of them and with the forecast set fair, Yorkshire can anticipate a comfortable victory on the final day.
It did not feel like that on the first morning. Yorkshire desperately required the 24-year old to replicate his performance from last year, where he shot to prominence bagging 50 wickets at 21 apiece in his very first full season with the county.
He did just that, beginning by rapping the Notts skipper, Steven Mullaney, on the pads and winning and lbw verdict. The next two were bowled, the first one doing just enough to dislodge Jake Libby's bails, while the second one nipped back perfectly to smash into Samit Patel's off stump. Coad was the only one to make use of the extra half hour as Luke Wood's edge carried comfortably to second slip.
A target of 403 was what Nottinghamshire were asked to chase after tea. Dauntingly, it would have been the fourth highest successful run chase against Yorkshire.
Yorkshire's position of dominance owed much to Gary Ballance's 82 from 166 balls, enough to ensure a first-innings lead of 68 was not wasted. It feels like Groundhog Day as far as Ballance is concerned - he has a dismal winter, comes back to Yorkshire, and scores runs aplenty.
Ballance would have been utterly pleased to be boarding a flight to Australia in November, but there was no place for him in the Test squad. In the two tour games where he did play, Ballance scored a half century as well as an unbeaten 45. Not to mention he was Yorkshire's leading run-scorer last season, amassing 951 runs at an average of 68. This raises the question - is Gary Ballance too good a player to spend his time solely in county cricket?
The evidence in his favour would have been even more persuasive had he got to his century on the third morning. He displayed his trademark affinity for the crease early on Day 3, punching a Wood delivery through the covers off the back foot. But he added just six runs to his overnight score of 76, before he lost his middle stump to a Gurney delivery.
Often, a prolonged break acts in favour of the bowling side and Nottinghamshire benefited from the downpour. Straight after lunch, Yorkshire lost three quick wickets, all bagged by Gurney. Seven down and 272 ahead they were not entirely secure.
Enter Tim Bresnan, increasingly a batsman who bowls rather than a bowler who bats. His unbeaten 68 was the mainstay.
Bresnan's bowling didn't go unnoticed either as he got Chris Nash to edge one to the keeper. Jack Brooks picked up two wickets, and importantly saw the back of first-innings-hero Ross Taylor. With Notts needing 222 to win and Yorkshire only two away from victory, the finale looks to be a predictable one.