After Durham were bowled out for 218 on a pitch that was spicy enough that none of their batsmen looked comfortable for long, you wondered if Steve Harmison might have chosen the right moment to make his delayed start to the season.
The England fast bowler – and he is not resigned yet to having "former" as a prefix to that qualification – has been troubled by an injury described as "frayed nerves" in his back, ruling him out of Durham's first three Championship matches.
Harmison took 6-20 as Durham won by an innings here last year, having been released from the second Ashes Test at Lord's, but so far his efforts here have been less successful than he might have hoped, at least in terms of wickets.
He looked rusty in a brief initial spell, taking a breather after only five overs, but was more potent when he came back for a second burst of eight overs, when he posed problems for Mark Wagh and Hashim Amla and was a shade unlucky not to have Amla on 20, although had Liam Plunkett held on to a thick edge at gully it would have been a breathtaking catch.
In the event, it was his brother, Ben, who dismissed the South African in his last match for Nottinghamshire, although not before he had passed fifty for the sixth time in his seven innings for the county. His downfall came from a surprisingly poor shot, a careless swish outside off stump that presented Phil Mustard with an easy catch, although at three down and only 27 behind, Nottinghamshire will still fancy they can push for a fourth win in four.
Much may depend on how Harmison the elder shapes up this morning or, more to the point, how much work the Durham physio has had to do before he takes the field. There were times yesterday when he did look to be moving gingerly.
Earlier, Bilal Shafayat had been leg before offering no stroke and Neil Edwards had dragged a wide delivery on to his stumps, giving Plunkett a double success.
Durham, who had Dale Benkenstein and Ian Blackwell together overnight, somewhat collapsed in the end, sliding from 117-3 to 191-8 in the morning session. Blackwell, whose emphasis was always on attack, was caught at gully driving loosely at Darren Pattinson before Benkenstein had no answer to a vicious inswinger from Charlie Shreck.
Samit Patel, the left-arm spinner, had Ben Stokes stumped and Plunkett caught at short leg, Mustard having fallen in between to Paul Franks, who helped wicketkeeper Chris Read claim his 700th first-class victim when Ben Harmison was caught off a thin edge after lunch and picked up his third wicket when Edwards took a routine slip catch to remove Chris Rushworth.Reuse content