Worcestershire may again be favourites to be relegated but the spirit that enabled them to defy their doubters last season clearly remains intact. Faced with chasing what seemed likely to be an academic target of 392 to win at Trent Bridge, they have made such a good fist of their task that they looked for a while as if they might pull it off. They might do yet, although the balance was shifting steeply towards the home side last night. At stumps, they had reduced the requirement to 134 but had only four wickets in hand after Nottinghamshire had taken three with the second new ball in a destructive final half-hour or so.
They were much less well placed, certainly, than when a partnership of 174 between their captain, Daryl Mitchell, and the all-rounder Moeen Ali, came to an end, at which point they needed 157 with seven wickets standing.
Ali would consider himself somewhat unfortunate to be out for 94 after a magnificently measured innings that mixed aggression with patience. The airy drive that had him caught behind off Andre Adams as an increasingly frustrated Nottinghamshire attack wondered how they might ever separate the third-wicket pair was out of character. One could only suspect that weariness, physically and mentally, had crept in.
His departure left the contest in the balance again, with the second new ball about to be taken and responsibility resting on the shoulders of Mitchell, who had taken full advantage of an unusual reprieve when he was given out leg before by umpire George Sharp who, in the absence of an appeal from bowler Adams, changed his mind.
Indeed, once Ali had gone, Worcestershire's strong position began to unravel quickly. Ben Phillips, the right-arm seamer who has bowled well throughout this match, dealt Worcestershire another setback with the sixth delivery with the new ball, bowling Alexei Kervezee off his pads.
Mitchell completed a fine century off 237 balls with his 12th boundary but faced only one more before Luke Fletcher bowled him with a swinging ball. When the burly paceman struck again with his next delivery, badly misjudged by new batsman Ben Scott, the 139 runs Worcestershire needed suddenly looked a daunting figure.
Nottinghamshire had added 48 to their overnight total, including a characteristic charge, whirling bat in hand, by Adams, who smote 25 off as many balls without much control over which direction the ball would fly, although the six he hoisted over long-on against seamer Richard Jones was as clean a hit as you will see. Riki Wessels advanced to 113 before he was leg before playing across one from Alan Richardson, whose five-wicket haul was just reward.