Patel's departure keeps contest even
Nottinghamshire 291 for 8 v Worcestershire 315
Nottinghamshire wobbled, steadied themselves and wobbled again here, the consequence of which is that Worcestershire may begin their second innings with a lead they probably did not expect after Samit Patel had appeared to be heading for a score with the kind of substance he needs to register repeatedly to keep England interested in his personal battle of the bulge.
As the 26-year-old knows only too well, England coach Andy Flower is concerned with more than simply weight of runs in assessing where Patel sits now among potential candidates for a middle-order position. Only when he can guarantee his stamina until the last over in the field on a steamy day in the sub-continent will Patel end the doubts over his fitness for international cricket, and his failure to make the cut for England's World Cup squad confirmed that he has not yet reached that point.
After learning how to resist fast food and crisps more frequently than before, Patel claims now to be in measurably better shape to add to the 11 one-day international appearances he made in 2008. Nobody at Trent Bridge is saying how much better, in terms of tape measures and scales, but if he can supplement the century he made in Nottinghamshire's opening match against Hampshire with a few more before the summer begins in earnest, Flower is likely to ask for evidence.
Patel should have had a hundred here after playing almost without error for three and a half hours here, sensibly overcoming his often calamitous habit of trying to force the pace too early and settling into an innings rich in attractive strokeplay that was notable for shot selection as well as shot quality. He dutifully left alone most of the good balls that came his way but did not waste many opportunities to score.
Given that Nottinghamshire had been three down for 64 before he got off the mark, and with a new partner at the other end, it was precisely what his team needed to avert an all-too-familiar top-order collapse, which made it all the more frustrating that he could not push it through to the conclusion it deserved.
On 81, with 15 boundaries scored, he had the measure of all of the bowlers - with the exception, perhaps, of Daryl Mitchell, who bowled his medium pace on a tricky length and managed to hit him on the elbow - and clearly fancied his chances when Mitchell belatedly turned to the off spin of Moeen Ali. Yet it was Ali who had the last laugh when Patel advanced down the pitch, eyes wide, with the deep midwicket boundary in his sights. A moment later, the ball was safely in the hands of the midwicket fielder instead.
In this way an innings notable for fulsome driving and wristy leg-side play ended rather tamely, with an error that might have drawn more sympathy for a batsman missing out had it not come immediately after two wickets in two balls from the medium pace of Gareth Andrew.
Trapping Steven Mullany in front of the stumps and then drawing Chris Read into an edge to the wicketkeeper, Andrew had seriously undermined a strong Nottinghamshire recovery, putting the onus on Patel to take stock a moment and ensure that a good position was not wasted.
Patel had shared a 102-run partnership with Adam Voges and another of 93 with Steven Mullaney but the departure of Andre Adams for a typically breezy 10 called time on the day with Worcestershire still 24 in front.
Earlier, recovered from the groin injury that limited his participation against Yorkshire last week, Adams had completed his third five-wicket haul in as many innings at Trent Bridge so far this season, bowling last man Matt Mason off an inside edge.
But Worcestershire's innings had been carried forward by Matt Pardoe and Damien Wright, the former furthering the impression of a composed young batsman with a bright future by stretching his second half-century in only three matches to 74 before a mistimed clip to midwicket allowed Alex Hales to atone for his dropped catches on day one. Wright hit 10 fours in his 65 before Patel beat him in the flight.
Nottinghamshire reverted to Neil Edwards at the top of their batting order, returning Paul Franks to No. 8. In tandem with Mark Wagh, Edwards contributed nicely to a 60-run partnership but after he was caught behind off Alan Richardson. Nottinghamshire quickly lost Mark Wagh, bowled by Mason with his eyes still watering from a painful blow below the belt, and Hales perished first ball to a fine late awayswinger from Richardson, who would later end a bright innings from Voges when the Australian failed to get forward to one that swung in.