In his England selector's hat, Ashley Giles will have hoped that his phone call to Geoff Miller on the subject of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott last night could have conveyed a warming tale of reviving form and continued excellence for the national selector to digest ahead of the meeting tomorrow that will determine who faces Australia in the decisive Ashes Test.
Instead, in his other identity as Warwickshire's director of cricket, the only encouraging news he could impart about an England player was that Ryan Sidebottom, so far overlooked, is bowling rather well. After waiting two and a half hours for play to start because of rain, his own pair had failed miserably to seize the moment, doing their international prospects no good at all and allowing Nottinghamshire to maintain their tight grip on this match.
Thanks to Rikki Clarke's 67 and some handy blows from the lower orders, the visitors' card at least looks respectable, although they still trailed by 174 at stumps.
It might be supposed that Bell and Trott had the perfect platform, finding themselves together in the middle in the 11th over of the day after Charlie Shreck had dismissed both Warwickshire's openers in consecutive overs. They could have egged each other on, touching gloves after each boundary, pushing on towards an Oval double act in a run-filled joint statement. But that scenario never had a chance. Bell, off the mark with a single clipped behind square off Shreck, faced only a couple of balls from Sidebottom and, playing away from his body at one dropped in a little short, nicked the second of them through to the wicketkeeper.
Those intrigued by patterns will note that after succumbing to Mitchell Johnson in all of his three Ashes knocks so far, Bell had fallen again to a left-armer. Trott at least hit a couple of boundaries, leg glancing Shreck and driving the same bowler through mid-on. But then he too, spoiled his script as Shreck claimed his third wicket, via an edge to second slip taken low down by Adam Voges. In a highly productive season for the South African-born right-hander who averages 77.08, Trott's 15 was his lowest completed innings since his first-day, first-ball duck against Somerset in April.
When Sidebottom trapped Tim Ambrose in front in the next over, to be 3 for 11 on the day, Warwickshire were 66 for 6, still 322 behind. There seemed every chance that Bell and Trott would be able to atone sooner than they expected. But Chris Woakes batted nicely for his 22, then Clarke added 69 for the eight wicket with Naqaash Tahir and 39 for the ninth with Sreesanth before being run out.