Notts quicks provide early test of Durham's Bounceback spirit
Nottinghamshire 96 for 4 (Patel 43*) trail Durham 162 (Poynter 65, Fletcher 3-23) by 66 runs
"We're not angry with you," the ECB's panjandrums told Durham last autumn.
"Just very very disappointed?" queried the county's officials, who had rapidly adjusted to their role in the patient parent lectures naughty teen routine. And so it continued, the board telling Durham that sanctions were for the greater good and the county mumbling "Whatevs" while waiting for nice Uncle Ian to come and stay. It was thus a relief when shrugs and moodies were replaced by competitive, wicket-strewn cricket on the first day of this game and BounceBackTogether could be more than a hashtagged slogan.
Nottinghamshire cricketers, though, were in no mood to be drinks waiters at Durham's revivalist party. Supporters at Trent Bridge were themselves both bloody angry and very disappointed when their team was relegated last September, a demise caused not by a shortage of cash but by a lack of points. What was worse they went down without a semblance of a fight, 41 points shy of seventh-placed Lancashire in the final table.
It will therefore have comforted the away spectators when Nottinghamshire's seamers followed last week's ten-wicket demolition of Leicestershire by controlling the opening exchanges of this match, taking six wickets for 24 runs either side of lunch as the home side crumbled to 71 for 7. Then much later in the piece, Samit Patel and Michael Lumb put on 85 for the visitors' fourth wicket and their alliance was only ended deep into the evening when Lumb, having laboured worthily over 33 runs, was leg before to one from Mark Wood which kept low. That wicket fell in a 29-ball session watched by fewer people than you would find in the average ECB committee meeting. It ended a day marked not quite so much by Durham's resurgence as by Nottinghamshire's grit.
Indeed, we had got to middle of the afternoon before north-eastern hope was personified in the chunky shape of Stuart Poynter, whose 59-ball half-century hoisted his side's first innings total to a barely respectable 162. The ball itself did a fair bit of #bouncingback and forth during Poynter's innings, not least when he uppercut the impressive James Pattinson to the longstop boundary, a shot which brought a roar of delight from the 2190-strong crowd, their attendance encouraged by the £5 price of admission.
Durham's wicketkeeper-batsman breathed in the oxygen of approval and more boundaries followed, the best of them driven through the covers. Poynter hit a dozen fine fours in his 65 and had added 52 for the last wicket with Chris Rushworth before he was bowled making room to work Luke Fletcher through the off side.
But last-wicket partnerships often foreshadow early breakthroughs and so it was at a chilly Riverside where Rushworth and Graham Onions took three wickets in seven balls inside the first five overs of Nottinghamshire's reply. This was probably the best part of the day for the Durham supporters who had turned up with the intention of showing the authorities that it takes more than points deductions to crush their collective spirit.
"Betrayed, Cheated but not Defeated" read a banner just to the left of the sightscreen at the Lumley End and one did not need to be "Dilly" Knox to fathom the acronym "FTECB" printed alongside the rhyme. Onions probably did not express himself quite so frankly when he caused Greg Smith to edge a drive to Paul Collingwood; neither might Rushworth have been so candid when he trapped Alex Hales for a five-ball duck. But their joy was evident all the same and a reminder that Collingwood still possesses one of the best seam attacks in either division.
Lumb and Patel, though, staunched the flow of wickets with careful flourish-free batsmanship. Spectators may not have discounted the possibility of Durham beginning their second innings of the first evening of this game but only Lumb's wicket fell. Patel had hit eight boundaries when the umpires took the players off about an hour into the final session but Wood had looked relatively innocuous and the 80-minute break in play may have come as something of a disappointment to batsmen who seemed at ease in their work.
All of which served as a pleasing complement to the first session of the day when it had been Nottinghamshire's seamers who had made the most of Read's decision to bowl first. Stephen Cook's first competitive innings for Durham ended after 11 balls when he attempted to leave a ball from Jake Ball but only edged a catch to Chris Read. Jack Burnham added 41 with 11 overs Keaton Jennings but then declined to attempt a stroke to the final ball of Luke Fletcher's first over. It was a fatal misjudgement. Burnham's off stump Beth Tweddled back to Read, the ash pole performing a gymnastic feat well beyond the bowler's capabilities, albeit that Fletcher has chiselled down his previously megalithic build.
Burnham's wicket was the prelude to further success for Fletcher and his colleagues. Pattinson produced what was by far the seed of the day to bowl Jennings for 26, the ball angling in before straightening to take out the off stump. Michael Richardson's tentative push gave a slip catch to Greg Smith; Collingwood and Ryan Pringle fell to successive deliveries from Ball and Durham were in the soup before the media had digested their lunchtime lasagne.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications