Hales puts his name in England frame
Nottinghamshire 303 for 5 v Somerset 386
Stuart Broad did what was necessary to remain the centre of attention here by picking up the 13th five-wicket haul of his career. His performance was rightly put in its place though, as a sub-plot to the bigger story, as Alex Hales, 22, a batsman who is beginning to warrant the attention of the England selectors, hauled Nottinghamshire back into the match with the second century of his first-class career.
It was a moment he greeted with a measure of relief as well as pleasure, having developed a tendency to lay the foundations of good scores without making them count. When he reached 50 it was the 14th time he had done so in 46 first-class innings, which is a measure of how often he has been frustrated.
There is always the danger, in such circumstances, for mental barriers to emerge, which is probably why he celebrated with a clenched fist rather than any more exuberant display of elation. It signalled determination and the feeling that he had proved something to himself.
Then again, a little impetuosity is forgivable in a batsman of relative youth, particularly from a natural stroke-maker, endowed with the advantage of height and strength. And pitches at Trent Bridge in the three seasons since he made his Championship debut have hardly been the ideal surface on which to build confidence.
A broken jaw inflicted by a ball from Yorkshire's Ajmal Shahzad early in May this year, moreover, has hardly been conducive to uninhibited progress. Yet he has scores of fifty or above in six of his last eight first-class innings either side of the injury, and has outshone David Hussey and Adam Voges, Nottinghamshire's two Australians, in their successful Twenty20 campaign.
This innings was not without errors. A leading edge on 59 just eluded the fingertips of Chris Jones at mid-off, while James Hildreth got both hands to a difficult chance at backward point when he was on 68.
He went to 50 with a four and celebrated with a six off Murali Kartik, but mindful of having been out six times in the 80s and 90s, he negotiated the last 15 runs of the century with due care, which was just as well given that Steve Kirby was bowling particularly well at the time. But finally he was presented with an opportunity to cut Kartik for four to move to 102.
His century followed a fluent 57 from Voges in a stand of 101 for the fourth wicket, which looked to have the legs to go further had the Australian not left a ball from Adam Dibble that cut back and took his off stump. It was young seamer Dibble's first Championship wicket.
Steven Mullaney, dropped at second slip by Marcus Trescothick on 29, played some pleasing shots as he and Hales added 87 for the fifth wicket before Mullaney was caught behind off Kartik, one short of a half-century. Hales is still there on 130, having given Nottinghamshire the substance they needed in response to Somerset's 386, after Neil Edwards, Riki Wessels and Samit Patel had all gone cheaply.
Somerset, who had been 341 for 5 overnight after Broad's dismissal of Hildreth shortly before stumps, were bowled out for 386, having lost their last six wickets for 48 in a way that emphasised how well Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter had played in their 290-run partnership.
Kieswetter passed his previous career-best when he pushed Broad away for two off the back foot to move to 154 in the first over of the day, but Broad claimed his third wicket when his appeal for lbw against Steve Kirby was granted by umpire Neil Mallender to the visible annoyance of the batsman.
Kirby's thumping of the turf with his bat after the finger had gone up will not have pleased Marcus Trescothick, who is already facing a possible ban because of his side's poor disciplinary record. Trescothick is due to face an ECB tribunal on Friday because five of his players have had disciplinary issues in the last 12 months, which may explain why he has been 'rested' from Somerset's three-day match against India this weekend, in which the England captain, Andrew Strauss, is playing as a guest.
Kieswetter fell nibbling a perfect away swinger by Andre Adams, who claimed his fourth wicket when Peter Trego skied one to backward point. Broad, whose bowling so far has probably encouraged national selector Geoff Miller without removing all doubts from his mind, completed the 13th five-wicket haul of his first-class career and his first for a year by dismissing the debutant, Adam Dibble, and Murali Kartik.
He has an impressive record for Nottinghamshire, for whom he has taken 53 wickets in only 10 matches. As a press box colleague pointed out, though, his victims here are hardly or the calibre of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid.
However, his captain, Chris Read, who as wicketkeeper is ideally placed to offer an assessment, was impressed enough to offer only compliments. "From my point of view, he bowled with good pace, moved the ball off the pitch and through the air, and to get five wickets was a fine return," he said, adding that he did not believe the selectors were about to lose faith in him.
"He has been among the leaders of the England attack in the last couple of years. He is still a young bowler who bowls at 90 mph and we all know what he can do with his height and the bounce he can generate."