Second day: Warwickshire lead by 278 with seven second-innings wickets remaining
The first century stand of a match dominated by bowlers has given Warwickshire the upper hand in their pivotal Championship tussle with Nottinghamshire.
Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott capitalised on excellent work from the Warwickshire seamers to consolidate their side's position in a game described by their captain as 'season-defining'.
It was high-class batting in testing circumstances. Conditions have favoured bowlers throughout the match. The ball has swung consistently, while the pitch is also now showing increasing signs of uneven bounce. Batting last will not be easy.
It is a sign of Bell and Trott's class that, while they were together, conditions appeared to have eased. Perhaps some of the help for swing bowlers disappeared as the sun came out, but it said much for the batsmen's techniques and diligence that they were able to add 148 in 36 overs; more than double the second-highest partner-ship of the match.
Bell (72 off 116 balls, eight fours and a six) faces an anxious wait to see if the England selectors are to stick by him, yet on this form looks every inch an international player. Positive from the off, he took full toll of some short bowling from Paul Franks to cut three boundaries, while also using his feet to the spin to hit a glorious straight six.
Most impressive, however, was his defence. Gone were the involuntary prods at balls outside off. He was positive in both attack and defence and clinical in his dealing with wayward offerings.
Trott (84 off 110 balls, 11 fours) was within sight of a third century in consecutive Championship matches when he was undone by one that cut back impossibly sharply. Trott currently averages over 100 in this year's Champion-ship and is now just two short of 500 first-class runs in the season.
It is not unrealistic to suggest that this pair might one day bat together for England; perhaps as soon as the Ashes this winter.
Their partnership was welcome indeed, for Warwick-shire were in danger of squandering a fine display in the field. Starting their second innings 91 ahead, Ian Westwood prodded at one he should have left before Nick Knight, having off-driven a couple of sweet boundaries, was caught off the glove by one that reared on him from a length.
Earlier, Warwickshire utilised helpful conditions to dismiss the hosts within 54 overs. Notts were reeling at 36 for six at one stage and even facing the prospect of following-on as Warwickshire showed admirable control and allowed the pitch to work its black magic.
Heath Streak bowled a super first spell. Maintaining a tight line and generating enough swing to trouble all the batsmen, he removed Darren Bicknell with one that nipped back before defeating Russell Warren, playing across the line, with the very next delivery.
Dougie Brown lent support. He had Will Smith with one that went straight on and also dismissed the danger-man, David Hussey.
Bell justified the decision to call him into the attack before Jimmy Anyon by finding Mark Ealham's outside edge, courtesy of a very fine catch by Tony Frost. So when Anyon produced a beauty that bounced and took Jason Gallian's edge, it left Notts on 36 for six and in danger of a rout.
Frost had to leave the pitch shortly afterwards after injuring his fingers. He is expected, however, to take a full part in the remainder of the match. That's just as well. Tim Ambrose sees a specialist today about his dislocated thumb, while Freddie Klokker is currently playing for Nottinghamshire Seconds as a trialist.
A sensible stand of 67 between David Alleyne (57 off eight fours and two sixes) and Franks averted the follow-on.
Brown returned to find Franks' edge before Alleyne holed-out to long-off and the tailenders were undone by low bounce to leave them all out for 157.
So far this season, Warwickshire have struggled to bowl out the opposition in the fourth innings but, on this pitch, it shouldn't prove quite so arduous. The lead is already approaching 300 and, with two days to go, there is plenty of time to stretch it further.