Nervous Notts warned of relegation
Yorkshire 327 for 8 (Lyth 95, Rashid 78, Fletcher 5-66) v Nottinghamshire
Five weeks to go and one or two at the wrong end of the table are starting to get twitchy, including now Nottinghamshire, whose director of cricket, Mick Newell, took the opportunity on the eve of this match to warn his players that if they think that relegation cannot sneak up they would be foolish.
Their season is in danger of ending poorly. Beaten in the quarter-finals of the FLt20 and stuttering a little in the YB40, in which they have lost their last two matches, they are not yet secure in the LV= Championship. Newell made a point, it seems, of highlighting the need to buck up ideas, mentioning in particular his side's failure to take 20 wickets in a match since early in the season and stressing that with fitness issues an ongoing concern for Andre Adams, someone else among the bowlers would have to make an impact.
Newell fears that Adams, who turned 38 last month, will have to be nursed through the remaining five matches after recurring problems with calf and hamstring injuries, so it will have come as a relief to him that Luke Fletcher was able to pick up his first five-wicket haul for two years, even if the pleasure was tempered somewhat by watching the big seamer flat on his back being treated for cramp two balls into his 25th over, ending his involvement in the day.
He should recover with rest overnight, which is just as well for Nottinghamshire after a performance that brought some balance after Yorkshire, asked to bat first, on a hard pitch with some grass left on it, batted with adventure. The match is important for them, at the other end of the table, with a 10-point lead over Sussex ripe to be extended.
That Yorkshire should have a chance of marking their 150th year with the title is all the more worthy for having managed so often without Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. Bairstow drove up the M1 to join this match after being released by England at The Oval and Yorkshire's closing position after day one is strengthened by the fact that he will begin day two at the crease, his entrance having been delayed. It might be enough to secure an extra batting point.
Bairstow's return is countered by the absence of Gary Ballance with England Lions, although in anticipation of that Yorkshire moved last week to recruit the New Zealand batsman, Kane Williamson, for the remainder of the season. Williamson, who had not batted in a first-class match since the second Test against England in May, steered his first ball to third slip in succumbing for a duck and Yorkshire will hope the rustiness does not last long.
His dismissal put Fletcher on a hat-trick after a beautiful delivery had accounted for Andrew Gale, who was looking in ominously good order before he was caught behind for 33.
Yet Gale will look on the day's work as a respectably good one by his side. There were frustrations for Adam Lyth and Adil Rashid, both of whom might have made hundreds, but any total above 300 after being put in can be seen as a success.
Lyth went closest to a century and will curse himself, given that he was only five away from his second of the season. Dropped on 33 - a difficult chance to Patel at third slip off Adams - he had played fluently for the most part, revelling in the licence to drive, when he became Fletcher's fourth victim, playing needlessly outside off stump and getting himself caught behind. He had hit 14 boundaries and, at that point, might have been wise to be more circumspect.
The catch enabled Chris Read to draw level with Bruce French's tally of 737 victims from catches as the county's most successful post-war wicketkeeper. The two more he pouched later to improve Harry Gurney's figures provides the statistical evidence to support claims that Read is Nottinghamshire's finest gloveman of all time, although there is some evidence, apparently not verified beyond all doubt, that Tom Oates, who kept from 1897 to 1925, finished his career with 744.
Rashid, who survived Fletcher's hat-trick ball before producing a typically elegant innings of sometimes deliciously timed shots, added 78 before Fletcher had him leg before on the back foot, after which Liam Plunkett's bold 41 secured a third point and an air of satisfaction in the Yorkshire dressing room that will not have been matches in the one above them.