Worcestershire trail Derbyshire by 336 runs with ten first-innings wickets standing
Before this match started Worcestershire's director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, claimed overseas international Zaheer Khan would not be able to take ten wickets in every match.
But with his star bowler doing exactly that in his first match in England, and given Matt Mason's continued absence with a shoulder injury, the suspicion grows that the Indian left-arm pacer might have to if Worcester-shire are to mount any sort of challenge in Division Two of the County Championship this season.
It certainly looked the case yesterday in this Division Two match. While the rest of the hosts' attack, Kabir Ali aside, struggled to contain a bullish Derbyshire outfit, Zaheer increased his tally of wickets in three championship innings to 16 by taking six for 60 off 22.1 overs and looked every inch the strike bowler Shoaib Akhtar - dare we speak his name - was supposed to be last year.
With two in his opening spell, one in his second and three more in his final effort, Zaheer ensured Worcester-shire were just about able to keep tabs on the visitors despite an assured 94 by the captain, former Warwickshire player Graeme Welch.
Jamie Pipe's 57, coming in at number nine, helped Welch build a highly-competitive total of 338 and was an enjoyable footnote to his first return to New Road after his eight-year stay here ended last summer.
But when Zaheer and Kabir weren't straining every sinew to make sure their side were not batted out of the match on the first day, the support cast did little to inspire confidence.
Roger Sillence, Ray Price, Nadim Malik and Stephen Moore bowled a combined total of 57 overs between them and accounted for two Derbyshire batsmen. Mason and Gareth Batty will be welcomed back with open arms.
The hosts were not without good spells. They made a decent start with a breakthrough in the third over and claimed another wicket in the ninth as they reduced their guests to 30 for two. Both went to Zaheer.
They followed that up with a three-wicket burst in the space of six balls after lunch, as the visitors went from 131 for three to 132 for six, a charge that should perhaps have given Worcestershire a decisive grip on proceedings.
But all too often, instead of putting the fresh batsman under pressure, newcomers were afforded sufficient time and scoring opportunities to settle as the afternoon drifted away from the home team.
Welch and Hassan Adnan went calmly about restoring their side's position and when the Derbyshire captain was joined by Pipe things began to look really bad for Worcestershire.
Welch hit 11 fours and a six before falling another ace short of his third first-class century as Zaheer tempted him into an uppish drive and had him caught behind.
Pipe, meanwhile, seemed determined to dispel his reputation as an injudicious batsman by compiling his first half-century of the campaign and only the third of his career. His ten boundaries were wisely selected but then there were enough bad balls from which to choose.
With their last throw of the dice of the day Zaheer and Kabir were brought back into the attack on 310 for seven and while the latter unsettled the tail by extracting a decent amount of lift, it was his partner who cleared up.
That left Daryl Mitchell and Moore with only a single Ian Hunter over to negotiate, which they did with reasonable comfort to leave themselves not so much with a mountain to climb as a testing series of hillocks.
Rhodes was full of praise for Zaheer's performance, saying: "He was magnificent. If you look at the three innings so far it has been just what the doctor ordered. He is doing more than just bowling, he is helping the younger bowlers and talking to them a lot too."