Nottinghamshire have been set to score 211 on the final day of their LV= County Championship match against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.
In the one over that was available to them at the end of the day they closed on 0-0, with Ajmal Shahzad facing all six deliveries, leaving Steven Mullaney at the non-strikers’ end.
On a fully engrossing day of cricket Notts’ first innings closed early on for 388 and it took a display of character and perseverance then for the bowlers to dismiss the home side for 338 just before stumps.
Luke Fletcher was the pick of the bowlers, taking 4-76, whilst Andre Adams, who had to leave the field with a knee injury and missed the final session, claimed 3-53.
All in all, the match is set up nicely, as Wayne Noon explained. “From the start we would have taken a scenario where we are set 211 to win on the final day.
“You can look back at different things and say we maybe could have got them out cheaper here or there, or got a few more runs but we’ve just got to put that out of your heads – we’re chasing 211, that’s the end of it and we’ve got to get on with it.”
He then explained the decision to send out Shahzad.
“With only one over left at the end of the day it made sense to send Ajmal in, rather than one of the batsmen. He’s in good form and we hope he can blunt the new ball attack and score a few runs in the morning.”
Notts had struck quickly at the start of the Northants’ innings, with Luke Fletcher having James Kettleborough (6) caught behind in the first over.
A sharp catch at first slip by Riki Wessels then accounted for Kyle Coetzer (20), off Harry Gurney’s bowling.
Rob Keogh batted with great assurity and took the fight to the bowlers as he moved to a run-a-ball 50 (9x4) just before lunch.
His stand with James Middlebrook had realised 93 when Notts made a couple of crucial inroads. Coetzer (59) was smartly taken by Samit Patel at second slip and then next ball Andre Adams made it-two-in-two as Ben Duckett (0) edged to Riki Wessels at first.
The hat-trick delivery, to first innings centurion Rossington, slipped down the leg side for four leg byes.
Northants forged ahead and gained a lead with 6 wickets in hand but were soon in more strife as Adams bagged his third wicket of the session, Middlebrook (41) also edging to Wessels.
Adams had looked to be out of sorts and struggling for fitness before lunch as he ambled in off only a couple of paces but he persisted to deliver a superbly accurate spell of 15 overs, which brought him figures of 3-53.
The 39-year old then had to leave the field, seemingly with a knee injury.
Rossington, two days after his maiden Championship century, overcame several blows to the body and hands to reach another well-organised 50 (73 balls 8x4 1x6). His maximum had been an elegant clip off his toes to launch Gurney over deep square leg.
With Andrew Hall as his partner, the pair dominated the final hour of the afternoon session, extending the Northants’ lead into three figures.
Northants passed 250, the first time they’d achieved that in both innings of the same Championship match this season.
An aerobatic display from the Red Arrows, performing at the nearby Sywell Airshow, brightened up the tea interval and the resumption saw Notts strike immediately.
Rossington (80) received an absolute brute of a ball from Fletcher that flew from a length and kissed the bat on its’ way through to Read, who had to leap high to hang on.
Steven Mullaney bowled Matt Spriegel (11) with a beauty that uprooted two stumps, before Fletcher saw off Hall (67) and last man Willey (28), who was brillaintyl caught in the deep by sub fielder James Franklin.
Gurney had taken the ninth wicket, that of Neil Wagner (4)
Resuming at 384 for eight at the start of the day, a lead of 124, Nottinghamshire were unable to prolong their first innings for longer than the first two overs.
Shahzad got a fortunate single from the initial delivery, pushing to Wagner at lid on, whose rash shy hit the stumps and went for an overthrow.
Having picked up three wickets in four overs on the first evening, Willey had then been unsuccessful in his next 20 before knocking over Adams’ off peg to finish with four for 46.
Gurney (0) quickly went the same way, to Mohammad Azharullah (3-56), leaving Shahzad undefeated on 68, his highest score of the season.
For the second away match running it is all set up to be a thrilling final day run chase, which Notts will need to achieve to maintain their title push.