“COME on, ‘Fletch’, get a move on.”
The voice in the crowd at the Peasholm Park end could have been Mr Mackay, the no-nonsense prison officer in the 1970s television sitcom Porridge, and ‘Fletch’, the Nottinghamshire pace bowler Luke Fletcher, the inimitable Norman Stanley Fletcher as played by Ronnie Barker.
The builds of the respective ‘Fletch’s’ are not dissimilar and, just like his criminal counterpart, the cricketing ‘Fletch’ had a broad grin on his face as he was being given the hurry-up by a Yorkshire spectator while delivering an over.
Quite why the spectator wanted Fletcher to get a move on is unclear, for he was in the process of capturing four Yorkshire wickets during an excellent spell with the second new-ball, finishing with 5-67 in total.
The crowd here appreciate a great trier but, as hard as Fletcher and his colleagues have tried, they have been no match collectively for a Yorkshire team who stand on the brink of inflicting on them an eighth defeat in 11 this season.
Yorkshire head into the final day needing six more wickets and Nottinghamshire 252 more runs, having reached 135-4 in their second innings, chasing 387.
Only twice have Nottinghamshire scored more to win a first-class match – 461-3 against Worcestershire at New Road in 2001, and 419-6 against Leicestershire at Trent Bridge in 1926, when a certain Harold Larwood was in his pomp. They do, however, have the record for the highest successful chase by a visiting county on this ground – 354-5 in 1990.
Such riches must seem a long way off for ‘Fletch’ and his colleagues after Yorkshire turned the screw on a hard-fought third day.
The cricket was mostly attritional as the hosts advanced from 177-2 overnight in their second innings to 338 all-out at tea, Tom Kohler-Cadmore striking 59 after Gary Ballance (61) added nine to his second day tally.
There was some lusty striking from Keshav Maharaj – there usually is – as the South African hit 35 from 25 balls with three sixes, an innings out of tempo with the rest of events.
By then, though, Yorkshire had achieved their principal objective of ensuring that their overnight lead of 225 did not go to waste as they proceeded by stealth rather than attacking gusto, not that Nottinghamshire’s bowlers gave them too much invitation to open their shoulders.
On a chiefly cloudy, un-summery sort of day, the type that hints at autumn to come, Yorkshire scored only eight runs in the first 30 minutes, 22 in the first hour and 63 in the opening session. They lost three wickets in that session as nightwatchman Steve Patterson flashed to second slip, Ballance pulled to long-leg and Harry Brook skied to mid-on, the morning’s play putting one in mind of an elderly person strolling slowly along Scarborough sea-front.
Spectators in a crowd of 3,221 had barely taken their seats after lunch when Nottinghamshire claimed the second new ball, Kohler-Cadmore greeting its arrival by hammering Fletcher for three boundaries in an over.
He had advanced to a splendid half-century from 92 balls when Fletcher nipped in with the first of four successive wickets, having Jonny Tattersall defending to Ben Duckett at first slip.
The burly Fletcher, 30, then produced a superlative away-swinger to have Tim Bresnan caught behind to end a half-hour vigil, and he finished Kohler-Cadmore’s innings when the batsman offered no shot to a ball that thumped into his pad.
Fletcher’s fifth wicket of the innings followed when Ben Coad edged to second slip, Paul Coughlin rounding off the innings by accepting a towering caught-and-bowled offered by Maharaj.
As seagulls circled in late afternoon, swooping hopefully as they scavenged for any tea-time leftovers, Nottinghamshire lost their first wicket in the eighth over when Duanne Olivier had Ben Slater pushing to first slip.
Patterson pounced with his fourth delivery after replacing Olivier at the Trafalgar Square end, Jake Libby getting an edge behind, and Maharaj dismissed Joe Clarke in similar vein, Clarke’s poor run of form – 175 runs in 17 Championship innings at 10.29 having now reached Haseeb Hameed-esque proportions.
Duckett lofted a couple of leg-side sixes off Maharaj, threatening some opportunistic seagulls in the process, but they had the air of futile gestures – a bit like protesting against the 100-ball competition that only those who stand to gain from it financially appear to want.
Maharaj trapped Chris Nash lbw but Duckett was still there on 47 when bad light claimed the last two overs, with Nottinghamshire, if they are to go down here, at least going down with the sort of fight that a Yorkshire crowd instinctively respects.