Nottinghamshire 311 for 4 (Mullaney 161*, Libby 90) v Somerset
On a somnolent summer's day at Trent Bridge, Steven Mullaney's concentration remained unimpaired from first ball to last. Quite how anybody can concentrate in these strange times, when according to media reports a Pokemon might be lurking just in front of square is a mystery, but he did just that and by the close had an unbeaten 161 to show for his admirable resolve.
Somerset's best chance of dislodging Mullaney on a benign surface would have been for a Pokemon hunter to wander across the pitch, mobile phone outstretched, entirely oblivious to the real world just as Jack Leach landed one on a length. A lad in a white t-shirt did cross promisingly on to the South Bank around lunchtime, but sadly turned down towards Nottingham Forest FC. Even Pokemon - and players of Pokemon Go - prefer to hang out at football it seems.
It was an unremitting effort by Mullaney, an allrounder who has quietly demanded more respect with every passing season, a fact emphasised by the fact he has stood in as captain since late May while Chris Read has been absent injured. Read has returned and Mullaney put his thoughts to batting. His selectivity never wavered and the result was a career-best knock in the Championship which has put Nottinghamshire in control.
According to the groundstaff, who presumably have a duty of care not to run over a Pokemon with the heavy roller, more's the pity, some have been lurking at Trent Bridge in recent days: Pidgeys, Rattatas and the occasional Drowzee. "All the rubbish ones," as an aficionado wisely remarked.
Perhaps the ECB should sponsor Ditto to appear at a county match. Ditto, one of the most powerful Pokemon, apparently has the ability to transform its shape, which as the ECB hierarchy is fond of complaining is more than you can say for county cricket.
The game is changing. A sizeable minority of county cricket spectators can go puce with rage at the thought that a day's county cricket could involve imaginary creatures. But while Mullaney steeled himself for an entire day's monumental concentration, a few within Trent Bridge's walls sneakily took a look. Letters will be written to the committee asking for them to be banned forthwith. Or at last not allowed in the Members' area.
While the Millennial generation were getting off on blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, Mullaney gave we Kabutos - ancient fossils with no real power, for those not in the know - plenty of languorous pleasure with a big hundred that felt inevitable from an early hour. He was dismissive of Lewis Gregory, a change bowler charged with taking the new ball, from the outset, and also indicated his supremacy over Leach's left-arm spin by rounding off an introductory over that cost 15 by thumping him over long-off for six.
In sharing an opening stand of 196 in 60 overs, Mullaney and Jake Libby did not have to run until the 13th over, settling in instead with extras and boundaries. "We just said to each other let's try and bat all day, let's try and do something special," said Libby. As they took control of the day, picking the gaps in what Pokemon included was an 8-3 field, it felt an achievable objective.
Instead, Libby fell 10 runs short of what would have been his first Championship hundred of the season for Notts when he cut Tim Groenewald to gully - a deserved reward for the bowler if not the ball because he was the most demanding of Somerset's quintet of right-arm seamers - but Mullaney had his bagged in the last over by tea, clearing the boundary against Leach, a shot that crashed into the advertising hoardings which such force that it virtually rebounded back into the bowler's hands. When a bowler is launched for six it is always a consolation not to have to chase it.
We are in the unsatisfying middle phase of the Championship when matches pop up on different days and interest turns to the main Test series of the summer, but this is an important round for all that with the bottom four in contention - not just Nottinghamshire v Somerset here, but Hampshire v Surrey at the Ageas Bowl.
It is Somerset, fourth bottom with a game in hand, who are most favourably placed, but their attempt to end a soulless sequence of draws came unstuck last week when they narrowly lost to Middlesex on a Taunton greentop and the general assumption - as last season - is that it is Nottinghamshire who are in a false position. From the moment Read won the toss, nothing challenged that theory.
Leach gained some consolation in the final session with a couple of wickets as Chris Rogers, Somerset's captain, delayed taking the second new ball. Michael Lumb touched one that turned and bounced a little to wicketkeeper Ryan Davies and Brendon Taylor was caught at mid-on. Jim Allenby had Riki Wessels lbw. Wessels, born in South Africa and who controversially made use of an entrepreneur's visa to play county cricket, now has his sights set on England after securing citizenship earlier this week,
Mullaney's only lapse came two balls after he had passed his previous best Championship score of 139, when Marcus Trescothick put him down off the bowling of Craig Overton. At such times, as Overton stalks off towards the boundary at the end of the over, one half expects him to leave the ground via the nearest exit but he stopped peacefully by the square leg umpire and wisely kept his own counsel. If England Lions are to show an interest, it is a good habit to get into.