To emerge from this match with even a draw would be an achievement for Nottinghamshire after conceding 505 in the first innings but, by demonstrating that a little character can go a long way, they glimpsed an opportunity even to win before John Simpson and Paul Stirling regained the initiative for Middlesex.
It took a good effort from Nottinghamshire to avoid the follow-on, a prospect that seemed distant at 164 for 4 on the second afternoon, and which still looked a long shot when Samit Patel, who played with class and authority in reaching 75 by Sunday’s close, top-edged an early attempt at a hook, leaving Nottinghamshire still 244 runs behind with half their wickets gone.
But, in gloomy conditions that required the floodlights on throughout, Chris Read and Riki Wessels found the necessary resolve, adding 72 runs in the next hour, coming through a disappointing new-ball spell from Steven Finn to be only 23 runs shy of their target when the more impressive Tim Murtagh took out Read’s middle stump. There was a scare when Peter Siddle fell to Murtagh’s next delivery and Wessels, who had played well for his 71, was taken superbly at slip by a diving Dawid Malan.
But Andre Adams, in his typically win-or-bust approach, launched his first ball over long-on for six, followed up with another over midwicket and, with Luke Fletcher blasting 40 off 42 balls, Nottinghamshire avoided being asked to bat again. Murtagh finished with 6 for 93 to take his tally for the season to 30 wickets and Middlesex led by 113.
After Malan and Chris Rogers added 46 in quick time, another shift in the current of the match saw Malan bowled and Rogers caught in the slips as Adams found lift and late movement. Then Siddle produced his best spell to dismiss Eoin Morgan and Neil Dexter, before Harry Gurney, in his follow-through, deflected a Simpson drive to run out Joe Denly at the non-striker’s end.
Middlesex needed to find some resolve of their own, which Simpson and Stirling provided in a partnership that should enable their side to dictate the terms of the last day.