Samit Patel's quest to convince the England head coach Andy Flower that he is fit and ready to resume his international career acquired a little more impetus here yesterday as Nottinghamshire averted their tendency to self-destruct at the crease.
The 26-year-old all-rounder's struggle to win his battle with the scales has perplexed Flower and the national selectors, whose insistence on Patel meeting clearly defined standards of athleticism has repeatedly provided the final word on his eligibility for selection, most recently when he was excluded from England's World Cup squad. Patel, a capable left-arm spinner, played in 11 one-day internationals in 2008 but has not figured since.
After a winter of gym work and running – and a more committed resistance to the lure of fast food and potato crisps – Patel claims now to be measurably fitter, although it is fair to say no one is yet fearful of him wasting away.
He knows what is at stake. His ambition to play Test cricket has not wavered and the fate of his former county team-mate, Bilal Shafayat, is a reminder that talent alone is not enough. Shafayat, once seen as a certain future Test player and the same age as Patel, was released by Nottinghamshire last year and has yet to find a new employer.
Patel's form last season was modest, yet he ended on a high note by scoring 96 as Nottinghamshire secured the fifth batting point against Lancashire at Old Trafford that ultimately enabled them to snatch the title. The confidence gained on that afternoon has stayed with him and yesterday he should really have followed his century against Hampshire in Nottingham-shire's opening match with another here.
From a tricky position on the scorecard – Notts were three down for 64 before he had played his first scoring stroke – he played an admirably controlled innings, patiently waiting for the bad ball where too often he has been hurried, and had reached 81 in three and a half hours when, perhaps a little too confident, he tried to hit over the top against the off-spinner Moeen Ali and dropped the ball instead into the hands of mid-wicket.
In the circumstances, it was a mistake that his admirers might have forgiven more readily had it not come immediately after two wickets in two balls from the medium pace of Gareth Andrew not undermined a strong Nottinghamshire recovery.
Patel had shared a 102-run partnership with Adam Voges and another of 93 with Steven Mullaney but his departure may have cost Notts a first-innings lead.