Brief scores: Nottinghamshire 256 and 187 for 6 (Mullaney 29*, Hutton 20*, Siddle 2-26)) lead Somerset 173 (Davey 60, Hutton 6-45) by 270 runs
On a day when thousands gathered in attendance with millions more tuning in from around the world to witness the Grand National in Merseyside, and with the Premier League and National League producing major upsets, quite how many cared to follow the County Championship?
At least at Trent Bridge, a few hundred-odd spectators came through the gates in expectation of 104-overs worth of quality cricket after frustrating spells of rain foiled the second day’s play.
“Hopefully a few wickets today,” murmured a handful of Nottinghamshire members as they made their way through the Dixon gates a little after the scheduled start of play and as it was, they were rewarded for their loyalty.
Much of the third day followed a similar script to that of the first. Wickets tumbled, the ball beat the edge of the bat often, the sun shone later in the day and patience was rewarded.
The day belonged to Brett Hutton, who registered figures of 6-45, his best returns in the format in a Nottinghamshire shirt. Had it not been for Luke Fletcher’s sore ankle, he wouldn’t have featured in this game.
Hutton’s success owed in equal parts to skilful bowling and an impatient batting resolve.
Somerset started the day 228 runs in arrears with eight wickets in hand but collapsed to lose five wickets for 43 runs in a manic morning session.
If Dane Paterson found swing to beat the edge of Tom Abell, Stuart Broad found inward seam movement off the pitch to narrowly miss the stumps in his second over of the day. Appeals went up as every delivery was met with an afterthought of what could have been and moans from Nottinghamshire fielders reverberated around. Broad wore a frustrated look but walked back to the top of his mark determined to do it all over again.
The routine did not relent even if Cameron Bancroft made him look mortal with a punch through the covers for the morning’s first boundary, a rare loose ball wide of off. Paterson saw to it Bancroft did not add any more to his run tally as he pinned him in front of the stumps with an in-swinging delivery, setting him up after a flurry of out-swingers.
Abell, the Somerset captain playing his first match of the season, looked to reel the visitors in with back-to-back boundaries off Paterson but edged a full delivery the very next ball to a diving Ben Duckett at second slip.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s defence wasn’t the strongest, as demonstrated by an aggressive approach wafting at balls outside off, and unsurprisingly played its part in his departure being trapped in front, missing a straight ball from Brett Hutton in the 28th over with the score 70-5.
Somerset’s batting looked tentative in the face of quality bowling so much so that the possibility of follow-on was mooted among the press pack barely over an hour into the day’s play.
Hutton was particularly relentless. His venomous inswinging full delivery snaked in to not only uproot Gregory’s middle stump but also warrant a replacement. Craig Overton lasted a delivery, pinned in front by another in swinger, as the 30-year-old bagged his 12th first-class five-wicket haul.
Eleven balls later, Rew saw his off stump pegged back. Suddenly, the idea of the visitors following on didn’t seem too absurd.
But Peter Siddle and Josh Davey’s 55-run partnership ensured such a prospect was not realised and it proved to be the only crumb of comfort for the visitors who were bowled out for 173 in the 53rd over, trailing by 83 runs.
Remarkably, Hutton took all his wickets bowling from the Radcliffe Road End, a feat matched by Lewis Gregory in the first innings.
“The wind normally helps you to swing it from that end which is probably a major factor,” Hutton said after the day’s play.
“We have got a strong bowling unit as well and turned out it was my day today. That’s the benefit of being at Notts, if something happens to any of the players, we have such a strong unit that we can rest and rotate players.”
“We have done our best to put ourselves in a position to win the match. Honestly, I think we have an okay score but the pitch has had some sun on it and the weather’s a bit better so it might get slightly better to bat on. If we can bowl how we can bowl, we think we have got enough on the board but obviously we would like more,“ he said when asked what an ideal target would look like on the final day.
If Somerset do go on to salvage a win on the final day, much of its credit would lay on Davey’s door, who compiled a 66-ball 60, hitting five fours and two sixes in a 95-minute vigil.
He looked the most adept to block out the good deliveries and score runs when an opportunity presented itself. More often than not, he created them as he went past 1000 first-class runs for his county.
In response, the hosts lost Duckett early and relied on starts from Haseeb Hameed, who added 34 to go along with his first innings score of 65, and Ben Slater (24) to see their lead go past 150.
In an extended evening session, nearly three hours long, Lyndon James and Steven Mullaney dug in to wrestle back control.
James, batting on a king pair, was dropped in the slips first ball but capitalised on it with a 50-ball 32, much needed for the hosts after losing three wickets in the space of six overs, until he chipped a simple return catch to Jack Leach.
Mullaney remained unbeaten at the stumps on 29 with Hutton (20*) for company.
Earlier in the day, Stuart Broad sent down 15 wicketless overs for 30 runs and his frustration was perhaps far greater than the unlikelihood of an early finish and being able to pop down next door to watch his beloved Nottingham Forest take on Manchester United tomorrow evening.
That may still happen and Nottinghamshire will hope Broad has a say in it.