Nottinghamshire might consider they did not make the most of their opportunities, given that four of their top-five batsmen scored more than 44 runs but none more than 59. Nonetheless, they are well placed to inflict another disheartening defeat on promoted Derbyshire, who are fast learning that life in the First Division offers little margin for error.
Their bowlers made a manful effort to contain potentially the strongest batting line-up in the division but the weariness in their legs at the end of a full day in the field in Derby will have been felt all the more keenly for the chances that were passed up in the field, with two catches put down at first slip and an easy run-out missed. Nottinghamshire have a lead of 69 that has the scope to become a winning one.
In the event, the errors did not prove too costly in runs. Michael Lumb, the first of two put down by an embarrassed Wes Durston, added only 23, Samit Patel just 25. But these things add up, psychologically speaking. The damage done when Billy Godleman missed the stumps from no more than two or three yards, with James Taylor on 41, is not yet known.
Taylor was the third batsman to pass fifty, following Ed Cowan and Alex Hales, either of whom could play a significant part in the international summer. Cowan looked in the frame of mind to supplement his debut 61 against Middlesex with his first century in Nottinghamshire colours until he greeted the ugly long-hop that resulted from spinner David Wainwright’s first delivery of the match with an equally poor shot, straight into the hands of the substitute fielder at midwicket, who was revealed to be Greg Cork, the 18-year-old academy player and son of the former Derbyshire and England fast bowler Dominic.
Cowan, who was named in Australia’s Ashes squad this week, may be playing himself into form somewhat controversially in English conditions but it might be argued that England could draw a benefit if he can teach the naturally aggressive Hales a lesson or two about building an innings against the new ball. Hales was a model of restraint on this occasion, his 56 spanning 153 balls and including one sequence, lasting more than an hour, of 36 balls without a run.
Nottinghamshire have concerns over their bowling with Andre Adams injured, but Graeme Swann, the England off-spinner, remains on course to return, post elbow surgery, against Durham next week after coming through another net session here with no ill effects.