Nottinghamshire had to battle hard to maintain the initiative on the second day of their LV= County Championship match against Somerset at Taunton.
Bowled out for 440, during the morning session, Notts then toiled away on an unresponsive surface to reduce their hosts to 237-4 by stumps, still 203 runs behind.
Samit Patel’s fine innings from the first day eventually ended on 132, whilst there was disappointment for Chris Read who was dismissed for 96, both batsmen falling to Alfonso Thomas, who finished with an analysis of 32-3-127-5.
Notts only got two overs out of Jake Ball before he had to leave the field with a foot injury but Steven Mullaney stepped into the breach to send down 17 tidy overs, which brought him a return of 1-37.
Bowling coach Andy Pick was understandably delighted with the way his under-strength attack had stuck to their task.
“We bowled with a lot of discipline today,” he said. “It’s the sort of wicket where you’ve got to make the batters play at as many deliveries as you can.”
He added, “There’s limited movement off the wicket so you must put the ball in the right area, hope there’s a mistake and then you can capitalise from it.”
Praising the work of Mullaney, Pick said, “He’s done a great job. Obviously with Jake off the field he’s picked up the slack in terms of bowling his overs. It’s been interesting working with him again. I remember when he was with England Under 19s he was a useful bowler then. He’s keen to bowl and enjoys his bowling – he’s conscientious about it and using him as much as we have has proved to be very useful this season as he’s already picked up some crucial wickets.”
Resuming from their overnight score of 382-5, not out batsmen Samit Patel and Chris Read began the day hoping to extend their unbroken partnership to one of record-breaking proportions.
Patel, beginning on 116, was looking to challenge his championship best of 176, whilst his captain was just five runs short of his 22nd career hundred.
More importantly Notts were on the brink of a fifth batting bonus point.
The early disappointment centred upon the Notts skipper who added just a single before falling to the fifteenth delivery of the morning. With overhead cloud cover, the conditions were made to order for Alfonso Thomas.
Swinging the ball prodigiously, and hitting the seam regularly, he picked up due reward by having Read (96) caught behind by one that just nipped away and kissed the edge through to Craig Kieswetter.
Thomas then had his own frustrations as the normally safe hands of Marcus Trescothick spared Peter Siddle (14), dropped on just his second ball but the bowler soon snared him as a sliced drive flew to Johann Myburgh at backward point.
Notts secured their fifth batting point in the 103rd over but then lost their centurion. Patel had advanced beyond his highest previous score at Taunton (128) but on 132 he joined the list of Thomas’ victims, again to a catch at the wicket.
Ajmal Shahzad (11 not out) received a welcome bonus at the start of his innings as an easily-accrued single turned into a 5 after the wildest of throws from Peter Trego.
The visitors reached the end of the 110th over with only eight wickets down, meaning Somerset gathered just two bowling points but they soon closed out the innings as Thomas bowled Jake Ball (12) to get his fifth wicket and Lewis Gregory collected his fourth by dismantling Andy Carter’s (4) stumps.
Despite reaching their highest ever total at Taunton Notts had lost their final 5 wickets for the addition of only 58, in 75 minutes.
In response Somerset reached 27-0 from the ten overs that were possible before lunch. Marcus Trescothick gave some impetus to proceedings, hitting Siddle for 4-6-4 at the end of the 15th over, the maximum being a powerful leg side hit into the Somerset Stand.
The Australian bowler responded magnificently, beginning his next over by clipping the off bail to remove Chris Jones (20).
That brought Nick Compton to the crease and early in his innings Notts celebrated joyfully as they thought they’d had him caught behind, off Siddle. The batsman stayed, with umpire Bainton’s obvious blessing.
Trescothick’s fifty (100 balls 9x4 1x6) arrived but he then lost his partner as Mullaney again proved his worth as a stand-breaker, having Compton (25) smartly taken by Riki Wessels at slip.
New man Alviro Petersen wasted little time in getting his innings underway, twice lifting Patel into the Sir Ian Botham Stand but just before tea he lost his captain, clearly the big wicket as far as Nottinghamshire were concerned.
Trescothick (72) was drawn into playing at a ball bowled around the wicket from Siddle and flicked it into the waiting hands of Read, claiming his 50th first class catch against the Cider County.
Mullaney and Shahzad kept things tight in the final session, although Petersen managed to reach his fifty (81 balls 5x4 2x6).
Andy Carter removed James Hildreth (12), thanks to the first leg before wicket verdict of the contest but Petersen (62 not out) and Craig Kieswetter (32 not out) saw it through to the close, which arrived six overs early due to the fading light.