Warwickshire 25 for 1 trail Durham 207 (Richardson 55, Patel 5-32) by 182 runs
There is the faintest risk of relegation in the air for Durham and Warwickshire, with the whiff about to become stronger for whichever county finishes on the wrong end of the result here. Just the time then with the Championship season at such a critical juncture for Paul Collingwood to stage an encore for Brigadier Block.
Durham's coach, Jon Lewis, had summoned the squad in on Monday, barely 24 hours after their defeat in the final of the NatWest T20 Blast, for a practice session that he called "more mental than physical". The emphasis had to switch to four-day cricket and Collingwood, who ground out 23 in 107 deliveries, certainly gave it his full attention.
It was clear from the outset that if Warwickshire got him out it would be over his dead body - it was just that there were times in a stubbornly strokeless display when it seemed that his death had been a little premature.
It was the sort of Bowling Day that legitimised such defiance with plenty of encouragement for the bowlers in humid conditions and on a pitch that Warwickshire regarded as a bit "tacky". Only Michael Richardson, who made 55 from 72 balls before he edged Keith Barker low to second slip, and more briefly Jack Burnham, also picked up at slip, this time off Chris Wright, made much headway in a total of 207 that took 81 overs to compile.
Richardson has handed over the gloves to Stuart Poynter and the batting responsibility seemed to spur him on. But generally, it was attritional fare for a decent sun-drenched crowd.
Barker bowls his left-arm medium with grace despite his bulk, a man who one suspects would barely leave a footmark in a fresh fall of snow. Such economy of effort enabled him to deliver 11 overs with the new ball, bowling Mark Stoneman and swinging one away from Keaton Jennings to have him caught at first slip. Barker has made a habit of tormenting Durham with bat and ball in recent seasons and 3 for 29 off 17 overs was another decent effort.
But once Richardson had departed, half the Durham side sent back for 151, the last five wickets fell to the offspin of Jeetan Patel. Figures of 5 for 32 in 15.3 overs are not what you expect from a spinner on an opening day at Emirates Riverside, even in a season where attempts have been made to encourage spinners back into the game.
At a time when Collingwood might have hoped to benefit, he became increasingly careworn, feet not always moving, bat likewise. His only boundary was a delicate leg glance off Barker from the 67th ball he faced. There was a flurry of activity straight after tea when he tried to drive Patel and the ball spun past leg stump and trundled for four byes.
He fell in hesitant fashion to the next delivery, sitting back to dab the ball between silly point and slip, flinging his head back in response to some modest turn and bounce and somehow depositing the ball into the hands of silly point. It was an innings to make his various injuries niggle away a little deeper, but Durham scored 114 for 2 while he was at the crease and the value of his innings might be recognised in hindsight.
Patel made short work of the rest. Poynter and Barry McCarthy, back from Ireland duty, were both bowled, Paul Coughlin swept to deep midwicket and Graham Onions' idiosyncratic reverse paddle against Patel was the sort of T20 shot Lewis had feared, only from a No. 11 who had not actually been part of the squad.
Durham's resolve has never been higher this season than when they won at Edgbaston last month, surviving Chris Woakes' brilliant 9 for 35 to secure the game on the final morning. They will need a display of similar determination, one fancies, if they are to come out on the right side of this one.