Nottinghamshire will require 211 runs to beat Warwickshire on the final day of their LV= county championship match at Trent Bridge.
With Luke Fletcher taking his second five-wicket haul in successive matches – and Chris Read entering the county’s record books for number of catches taken - the visitors were dismissed late in the day for 271, setting up the prospects of a thrilling conclusion to the match.
Notts’ bowlers had to toil under a hot sun but eventually got their rewards, to the delight of their director of cricket.
“Luke’s starting to look like a first class bowler on a regular basis." Mick Newell
“It was a tough day for the bowlers,” said Mick Newell. “I think the wicket was fairly slow, with not a lot of bounce in it so when players got in it was pretty hard to chisel them out.”
Newell was again impressed with the return and the performance of Fletcher.
“Luke’s had a good game. Our challenge to him has been to get five-fers and keep improving his career best figures and 5 for 52 is an excellent return on a wicket that probably wouldn’t have been his first choice to bowl on.
“He’s starting to look like a first class bowler on a regular basis and we want him to get a little bit better and a little bit fitter over the winter and become a top class bowler for us in all three forms of the game.”
The fourth day challenge is one that Newell feels his side should relish, providing the weather conditions remain fine.
“Over the course of a full day, unless the pitch starts to turn a lot and Jeetan Patel comes into the game, it’s the sort of score we should be confident of chasing down,” he added.
The visitors began the day on 27 for two in their second innings but quickly wiped out their overall deficit as Laurie Evans and Ateeq Javid negotiated the first hour of play.
Javid had a life when, without adding to his overnight score of 7, he nicked Andre Adams to third slip but Samit Patel couldn’t grasp the sharp chance.
Evans and Javid had combined in a stand of 199 when the sides met at Edgbaston a few weeks ago but this time they were parted after adding only 70.
Ajmal Shahzad’s first wicket of the match came via a routine catch from Read as Javid (24) chased a ball he should have left alone.
Evans reached a high-quality fifty during his partnership with Chris Woakes (23), who fell to the final ball of the opening session, as Patel found enough turn to clip the off stump.
With Steffan Piolet at the crease Notts persisted with a short-pitched approach after lunch and gained the added bonus as Evans (63) fell instead, fencing Gurney off his body into the hands of James Taylor at short leg.
The angle of attack should have had further reward but Patel put down his second chance of the day as Piolet made a hash of trying to hook Gurney and ballooned the ball up to short backward square.
Darren Maddy, batting with Ian Westwood as a runner after sustaining a calf injury in the field, batted resolutely in what is probably his final first class innings.
He added 42 with Piolet (30) who then picked out David Hussey on the midwicket fence off Luke Fletcher.
Keith Barker (18) became a landmark victim for the Notts captain, as Read held a snick off Fletcher to take his 746th catch for the county, surpassing Thomas Oates as the new record holder for catches for the county.
Harry Gurney induced Jeetan Patel (16) to steer straight to Hussey at point, heralding the start of a most unusual partnership.
Peter McKay, injured on the first day, also came out to bat with a runner (Javid) – providing a rare instance of two runners being on the field at the same time.
Fletcher finally accounted for Maddy (65), before collecting his fifth wicket when trapping Maurice Chambers (4) just before stumps.