Nottinghamshire four down and facing rising tide at Scarborough

Ben Duckett reverse-sweeps Getty Images

Nottinghamshire 184 and 135 for 4 (Duckett 47*) need a further 252 runs to beat Yorkshire 232 and 338 (Lyth 81, Ballance 61, Kohler-Cadmore 59, Fletcher 5-67)

Perhaps it is to be expected that thalassophiles should also be drawn to cricket. The movement and direction of the oceans are obvious yet their currents and depths repay contemplation. The North Sea was metallic under grey cloud at dawn on Tuesday yet by breakfast time it was a softer velvety blue as Scarborough's microclimate brought brightness from the east. Patterns moved on the surface of the water. Cricket's colours and tides are no less complex; no less addictive either.

Nottinghamshire are losing this game. So much is plain. They ended this day on 135 for 4 with Ben Duckett unbeaten on 47 and they still need 252 runs to achieve their first victory of a dreadful season in the County Championship. They have no frontline batsmen to come although Tom Moores can be counted upon in any fight. Should Nottinghamshire lose, their relegation becomes almost certain; should Yorkshire win, their pursuit of Essex and thereby the title is maintained.

Yet what might all this mean for these 22 players, their confidence, their contracts, their coaches? Marketing men in designer suits issue tedious calls for cricket to be fast and furious yet one of its attractions is its gentle pace interspersed with savage action. There is time for self-doubt to compete with assurance, just as it did, perhaps, during the third afternoon when Nottinghamshire's top-order batsmen went to the wicket at North Marine Road knowing hardly any of them were in decent nick. Still waters ran deep and perhaps they also churned.

Nottinghamshire's target was 387, rather less than it might have been had Yorkshire's batsmen shown a little more aggression earlier in the day. Yet that target would still be the largest score they have made since these two sides met in blithe April. One did not expect them to make a good start, which is neither here nor there; but one has the impression the Nottinghamshire openers do not expect to survive long, which matters very much indeed and explains why both were gone inside 14 overs.

Ben Slater was the more culpable; his poke at a wide ball from Duanne Olivier merely gave a catch to Tom Kohler-Cadmore at first slip. Jake Libby, by contrast, played a forward defensive you could show to your housemaster but was defeated by Steve Patterson's late movement and Swiss accuracy.

Six overs later Joe Clarke played forward to a well-flighted delivery from Keshav Maharaj but still did not get to the pitch of the ball and nicked it to Jonny Tattersall. Clarke has scored 175 runs in 17 innings since he made 112 and 97 not out against Yorkshire in early April. Some of his problems have been self-inflicted and merit no pardon. But there comes a time when every man has the rest of his life to live. How does Clarke see his career unfolding? T20 will probably help.

Nottinghamshire were 51 for 3 when Clarke was out and brief respite was provided by a 52-run partnership between the stand-in skipper, Chris Nash, and Duckett, who twice lifted Maharaj for sixes onto the Popular Bank. Duckett hardly knows any other way of playing than to take the fight to the bowlers. Whether his career now prospers after a mediocre season will depend on him acquiring a little more judgement to go with his ability.

Nash, of course, has that judgement and his dismissal, leg before to Maharaj for 30, was a grievous blow. The captain departed shaking his head and replays suggested the ball had hit him a slice of New York pastrami outside off stump. There will be replays in the bar this evening. Liam Patterson-White joined Duckett and the pair took the visitors to the close in poor light. Patterson-White is playing his third first-class match and has been preferred to Samit Patel. What might the incomparable game have in store for him?

And all this followed a quiet first hour of the day, one in which Yorkshire built their lead for the loss of Patterson and Gary Ballance. Both wickets had particular significance: Patterson was Paul Coughlin's maiden first-class wicket for Nottinghamshire but this is only his third game in two seasons all but lost to serious injuries. Ballance departed when he hooked Luke Wood and Louis Bhabra, Nottinghamshire's substitute fielder, tumbled forward at long leg to take a catch he seemed to have misjudged. It was a lovely moment for the 18-year-old and who knows what it might contribute to his future? A slight sense of belonging, mayhap. At least one hopes his mates at Papplewick and Linby were bucked for him.

Ballance's replacement, Harry Brook, hit the first four of the morning at 12.15pm when he cover drove Wood as pleasantly as one could wish and was so pleased with his effort that he repeated the stroke four balls later. But having hit two boundaries that would have graced any field Brook tried to pull a shortish ball from Patterson-White but only skied a catch to Jake Ball at mid-on.

Yorkshire showed more a little aggression after lunch; Kohler-Cadmore's three fine fours in a Luke Fletcher over were a prime example. But our cricket this afternoon was dominated in a different way by the huge frame of Fletcher who bowled a superb 11-over spell with the new ball, one in which he took 4 for 41 and finished with 5 for 67. Fletcher is a skilful workhorse whose allegiance to Nottinghamshire runs very deep. He is Boxer in Animal Farm. Such devotion is always reciprocated at Trent Bridge and so the travelling fans will have rejoiced in Fletcher's successes. He played at Papplewick and Linby, too.

The North Bay is darker in the evening but the ruffled waves are as beguiling as ever. Across England this week first-class cricket has been played near the sea. At Colwyn Bay, Lancashire have all but sealed promotion. At blessed Hove Sussex have revived their chances. And at Scarborough tomorrow the 133rd festival will end after a match which will decide nothing but clarify much. Cricketers have long been aware they cannot turn back the tide but that chilly truth has never stopped them wondering if it might be so.

Notts 4th innings Partnerships

1st29BT SlaterJD Libby
2nd13CD NashJD Libby
3rd9CD NashJM Clarke
4th52CD NashBM Duckett
5th78BM DuckettLA Patterson-White
6th6TJ MooresLA Patterson-White
7th31P CoughlinLA Patterson-White
8th1L WoodLA Patterson-White
9th24LJ FletcherLA Patterson-White
10th0JT BallLA Patterson-White