Nottinghamshire take charge of crunch clash
Nottinghamshire 147 for 3 v Yorkshire 178
It might be premature to describe Yorkshire's Championship challenge as faltering but their position at the top of the table going into this match disguises a run of results that rather undermines their case. A record of one win in six matches since May leaves them in need of renewed impetus.
They may struggle to draw it from this contest after their poorest day so far, one which began with Adam Lyth out for a duck and ended with Samit Patel and David Hussey shaping up to put Nottinghamshire in control. Yorkshire's lead at the start of this round is one point. Given Nottinghamshire's game in hand, if this is not a must-win fixture, it is certainly one they would prefer not to lose.
The morning belonged squarely to Nottinghamshire as Yorkshire stumbled to lunch at 89 for 5, prompting inevitable questions about Andrew Gale's wisdom in deciding to bat first in overcast, humid conditions, particularly after swing had been such a factor in the Test match between Australia and Pakistan here.
But the pitches here have generally played well this season. In each of four previous Championship matches in 2010, the captain winning the toss has opted to bat and the average first-innings score was 431, with Yorkshire winning both matches in which they batted first. To Gale, therefore, it was probably a straightforward decision. Ryan Sidebottom confirmed afterwards that Nottinghamshire would have batted, too, given the choice.
Indeed, this pitch - blanched and dry - looks like one that will take spin and there is no one in better form to exploit that factor than leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who came into this match with 28 wickets in his last four four-day games. Gale has also turned to David Wainwright, the left-arm spinner, for his first Championship appearance since May.
With a decent Yorkshire total to give them room to manoeuvre, Gale will have reasoned, those two bowlers in tandem could pose real problems for Nottinghamshire. All out for 178 - their lowest total for two years - was certainly not part of any plan.
The ball ruled from the moment Lyth, the First Division's leading run-scorer, edged the fifth ball of the day from Sidebottom into the gloves of skipper Chris Read behind the stumps. Under the watchful gaze of Geoff Miller, England's chief selector, it was not a good moment for the Yorkshire left-hander to cop his third duck of the season.
Sidebottom is back in the Nottinghamshire line-up after a knee injury sustained - in the modern cricket tradition - playing football, replacing Charlie Shreck from the side beaten heavily by in-form Somerset at Taunton last week. It was a second defeat in three matches for Read's team, whose thrashing of relegation favourites Warwickshire in between came on the back of career-best figures of 8 for 52 by Stuart Broad, who will not figure again this season.
Yet Nottinghamshire's bowling resources are as deep as anyone's, even if their batting can be suspect, and the attack on duty here subjected Yorkshire to their poorest opening day of the season.
It didn't help, though, that their second wicket was needlessly squandered when a misunderstanding between Anthony McGrath and Jacques Rudolph led the latter to be run out for one in the sixth over, Ali Brown doing the fielding after McGrath shaped to take a single to cover off Darren Pattinson but thought better of it with his colleague halfway down the pitch.
Gale looked in good shape, helping himself to a couple of nicely-timed boundaries off Pattinson and a couple more off Sidebottom but when Paul Franks came on first change for Pattinson he struck with his second ball, one that umpire Rob Bailey judged would have hit the stumps as the Yorkshire captain went forward and across.
Again Yorkshire looked capable of repairing the damage. Andre Adams conceded three boundaries in four balls to McGrath after replacing Sidebottom at the football stand end and was hit for two more by Jonathan Bairstow. But then McGrath nibbled at one from Adams to be caught behind and when Gerard Brophy was bowled by the same bowler, with a fine delivery that came back sharply, Yorkshire were in serious trouble at 89 for 5.
That became 104 for 6 when Rashid was out leg before, beyond much argument, in the fourth over of the afternoon. Bairstow, who is becoming a dangerous opponent in the middle order, again went for his shots with confidence, hitting nine fours to reach 45, including three in consecutive balls off Pattinson. But he was undone by a beautiful ball from Sidebottom that bowled him after swinging late - "the kind you bowl once a season," Sidebottom said - after which Ajmal Shahzad paid the price for stretching for one outside off stump from Pattinson and Yorkshire were 144 for 8.
Wainwright proved his value with the bat by adding 20 runs to that, although with his fellow left-arm spinner, Patel, trapping both Steve Patterson and Oliver Hannon-Dalby leg before, the Yorkshire total grew by only 34.
As if to even the score after Rudolph's give-away, Nottinghamshire handed Yorkshire an early gift when Alex Hales, chasing a ball that might have been called wide, edged Steve Patterson obligingly to keeper Brophy
Mark Wagh was bowled by a peach from Hannon-Dalby, a late inswinger to which the batsman played back, but Matthew Wood gave his side something to build on with his second fifty in consecutive games before Patterson had him leg before.
Wood, who has form in one-day cricket, has been given another chance in the four-day side as Nottinghamshire continue to seek elusive consistency in their batting. The openers are not the only problem area, however. Patel's hundred in defeat against Somerset was his first in the Championship since September 2008 but he and Hussey had put on 50 together at stumps, with Nottinghamshire 31 behind and seven wickets in hand.