Lancashire felt it necessary to issue a detailed apology when they announced yesterday that Old Trafford would not now host any Championship cricket this season. Yet, had Mike Watkinson, their director of cricket, cupped a hand to his ear as he was explaining how "not being able to get the water in and not being able to get the grass back on" had scuppered plans to give the realigned square at least one match, one suspects he would have been assailed by the sound of people not complaining.
Presumably he was being mindful of the sensitivities of the membership at headquarters, where the "Pit of Hate" faction, at least, are not particularly known for being conciliatory. It would not take a wild stretch of the imagination to suppose that even the most curmudgeonly Mancunian is reasonably pleased with Lancashire's position in the First Division table, even though all of their home games have taken place elsewhere.
With three wins from four at Liverpool, and every chance of another in the first match here since 1999, they are only two points behind leaders Durham and the prospect of winning the title for the first time since 1950 – the first outright since 1934 – can seldom have felt so genuine. Liverpool, which will now host the Hampshire game in September originally scheduled for Old Trafford, has not witnessed a draw in 10 matches since 2004.
For the second match in a row, Kyle Hogg played the starring role, following his superb performance in last week's Roses victory at Headingley with five for 28 as Nottinghamshire crashed to 27-5 before recovering to 203 all out.
The 28-year-old seamer has taken his time to blossom in a side in which others have tended to hog the bowling spotlight. The seemingly ageless Glen Chapple remains but Hogg is seizing his opportunity to take the leading role. With 36 first-class wickets, he is already enjoying his best season. He bowled beautifully yesterday, to the extent that Notts continued to look a still paler imitation of reigning champions. They are without a win since April.
At the peak of his powers, Hogg took three wickets in the same over without conceding a run, finding an outside edge to have Alex Hales caught behind before Adam Voges was leg before and Steven Mullaney clipped an inside edge on to his stumps.
But there is still work for Lancashire to do on a ground that has favoured spin in the past. Andre Adams – helped by Darren Pattinson – led a Notts recovery, taking three wickets in the space of nine deliveries.