Late wickets halt Lancashire's progress
Lancashire 300 for 6 v Nottinghamshire
All was going well for Lancashire until the weather, which they customarily regard as the enemy at this time of year, exposed suspect concentration with a capricious burst of late-evening sunshine.
Given that rain has been the bane of many a fallen title challenge, there was some irony in this. It looked like some might be coming when, a little before six o'clock, clouds rolled across the sun and the umpires ushered the players off for bad light, at which point only seven overs of the day's schedule remained.
But the clouds parted again, requiring the not-out batsmen to refocus when perhaps they were winding down. It was a sunny interlude of the briefest kind, lasting only four overs, but it was time enough for Nottinghamshire to claim three wickets and for Lancashire, who had been sitting pretty, it seemed, on 291 for 3, to stumble to 300 for 6.
The three damaging blows were landed in the space of eight deliveries as Ryan Sidebottom, who had belatedly begun to find some swing before the stoppage to stop Shivnarine Chanderpaul eight short of a hundred, supplemented his gains by having Steven Croft caught at third slip, chasing a ball that moved away.
Nightwatchman Gary Keedy was hastened to the middle to protect Mark Chilton, who had shared a partnership of 151 with Chanderpaul. But he was leg before to Andre Adams, who had Gareth Cross caught at first slip off the next ball. It was a just finish for Adams, who had been the best of Nottinghamshire's bowlers and starts day two on a hat-trick.
Chanderpaul was on the winning side as Durham beat Nottinghamshire by an innings at Chester-le-Street last September, one of four players to make centuries as the home side secured the victory that enabled them to retain the Championship.
Awkward, ugly and no more ready to give his wicket away cheaply, the West Indian continued where he left off, in a manner of speaking, and while he fell short of another three-figure innings he has already made an impact in a match that, given a positive result, will significantly influence this year's title race in one way or another.
For the leaders, Nottinghamshire, it is the match in which they must maintain their momentum despite having managed, unfortunately, to leave themselves with no overseas player. For Lancashire, it is the fixture that will probably determine whether they are still in the running.
Nottinghamshire's hiatus has occurred because David Hussey has returned to his state side, Victoria, in readiness for the Champions League and his replacement, the Western Australian Adam Voges, could not obtain a visa in time to take on Lancashire, although he will be able to play in their final three fixtures.
It may or may not be significant that the last time Nottinghamshire did not field an overseas player, after Hashim Amla rejoined South Africa and before Hussey arrived, they lost at home to Hampshire and were spared a defeat against Essex largely because of time lost to rain.
"There are a lot of good batsmen in our side and it's important they stand up and be counted," Mick Newell, their director of cricket, said.
They will have the chance later. Lancashire won the toss and chose to bat first, despite being presented with a pitch as green as any seen at Trent Bridge this year. The attraction was the short boundary on the Bridgford Road side of the ground, so close that a firm push towards the new stand could easily bring four runs.
In the event, despite a lot of rain here in the last few days, the pitch was dry and held few terrors for the batsmen, save for the odd ball that kept low. Lancashire, despite their flap at the end, for the most part looked as though they will not be beaten easily, as has been their strength all season.
Their top four all made half-centuries. Chanderpaul was typically steadfast, his stance so square his feet were at much the same angle to the bowler as the wicketkeeper, and mightily effective. Chilton, after one early and expensive (for Nottinghamshire) let-off, was equally resistant, if not quite so productive.
With the exception of Adams, who has emerged, in his unfussy way, as Nottinghamshire's bowler of the season, the home attack for much of the day did not perform. Darren Pattinson had as many no-balls, wides and four-balls in his repertoire as potentially wicket-taking deliveries, although he did produce one to have Chanderpaul at least momentarily in trouble, spitting off a length and forcing him to fend it away with difficulty.
Dropped catches did not help. Steven Mullaney, facing his former county, put down Tom Smith on 41 and Chilton on one in consecutive Adams overs.
The Kiwi did claim Paul Horton leg before, his 46th wicket of the season, while Sidebottom had Smith caught at first slip, but until Chanderpaul departed at 280 for 3, having looked set for his third century in five first-class matches, it was Lancashire's day.