Second day: Northants need 400 runs with eight second-wickets left to avoid innings defeat
The early morning arrival of the Midland media circus indicated that a big story was brewing. And, thankfully, it all went according to script.
Graeme Hick's 100th hundred for Worcestershire was neatly slotted into all the tight TV and radio schedules. And all the praise that came the great man's way was as deserved as ever. But, once all the Hick hullabaloo had died down, it allowed Steve Rhodes' bubbling side to get on with the job of winning cricket matches.
And the way they built on the first-innings efforts of Hick and double centurion Phil Jaques was once again breathtaking.
Mirroring his match-winning nine wickets in a session down at Chelmsford last week, Zaheer Khan removed the Northamptonshire top order to 28 for five. And, from that, there was no way back.
Bowled out for just 67, the visitors then recovered from another bad start to reach 76 for two by the close. But, weather permitting, this one surely looks all over bar the formalities.
For all that went on, this was still Hick's day once he had flicked a single to long leg to complete the seven further runs he needed to add to his overnight 93.
It was also the 40-year-old's 130th career ton and he is now the sole occupant of eighth place in the all-time list of century-makers.
The ensuing celebrations, which clearly meant a lot to this modest, endearingly shy man, proved a distraction only to his overnight partner Steven Davies, who departed the scene shortly after. But it did not stop Gareth Batty coming in to help continue the carnage.
Another 77 runs were added before Hick chopped on to Monty Panesar to depart for 139. And, from then on, it was just a question of how long the home side batted.
When Batty was ninth out for 68, the declaration came. But even in the wake of last week's Zaheer-inspired heroics at Chelmsford, Worcestershire's most optimistic fan could not even have dreamt of what might happen next.
The Northamptonshire batting folded like a pack of cards in the most devastating fashion as Zaheer once again proved the boldest swinger in town.
Having removed Robert White and Bilal Shafayat with the last two balls of his first over, Indian Test paceman Zaheer then found the edges of the bats of both Usman Afzaal and visiting skipper David Sales before clean bowling his international team-mate Saurav Ganguly.
Watching it all unfold at the non-striker's end was Worcestershire old boy Stephen Peters. But, although Zaheer was done, Peters' dismissal also triggered a tumbling of wickets at the other end.
Matt Mason bowled his old team-mate, then Stuart Wedge ended Lance Klusener's spirited resistance (21 from 17 balls), and followed up with the scalps of Ben Phillips and Nicholson in successive balls either side of tea. And, within two balls, Mason had Riki Wessels caught by Hick at second slip.
Having bowled out Northants in only the 25th over of the innings for the season's second-lowest score, the Worcestershire attack had barely broken sweat and there was no need for any debate as to whether the visitors should be put back in again.
With 35 overs still left in the day, it even briefly looked as if the match might sensationally be over before the close when the visitors rapidly slumped to four for two.
White, first out earlier in the day, was again the first to go, caught behind to bag a pair.
And Peters' second dismissal of the afternoon was perhaps even more inglorious.
Admittedly, he did at least score four to add to the eight he got first time round. But for an opening batsman to be dismissed at 3.51 in an afternoon, then again at 5.12, an hour and 21 minutes later, is not the sort of statistic to be too proud of. And for it to have happened back on familiar territory made it even more painful for the popular former Worcestershire player.
Shafayat and Afzaal at least ensured no further embarrassment. But, with a 400-run deficit facing Northampton-shire today just to make Worcestershire bat again, that looks a tall order.