“WHAT was it, do you think, bad batting or good bowling?”
So enquired an elderly Yorkshire supporter as we passed on the staircase in the Radcliffe Road Stand.
Yorkshire had Nottinghamshire at 78-8 in reply to their own 407 and a heavy shower had just driven the teams from the field.
I replied that I thought it was probably a bit of both, with the emphasis firmly on “good bowling”.
One says “good bowling”, but that actually does Yorkshire something of a disservice, for there were times yesterday when they were better than good.
Steve Patterson, with a career-best 5-43, and Ryan Sidebottom, with 4-35, were more accurately outstanding as Nottinghamshire were dismissed for 150.
Patterson – is there a more under-rated county cricketer? – was a constant threat from the Radcliffe Road end and the perfect foil for the evergreen Sidebottom.
The former England man claimed another wicket in the follow-on to leave him two short of beating the 596 first-class wickets taken by his father, Arnie, as Nottinghamshire closed on 118-4, still 139 adrift.
The word that most accurately summed up Yorkshire yesterday was “clinical”.
Their performance had the unmistakable stamp of champions-elect; indeed, it would be a surprise if they do not go and clinch the title.
This has been yet another classic demonstration of four-day cricket, the sort Nottinghamshire themselves played when they won the Championship in 2010.
It is the sort that possesses an inevitable air, and which conveys an aura of confidence to the crowd.
One man never short of confidence is Jonny Bairstow, who got Yorkshire’s day off to a flying start when they resumed on 327-8.
It was already a fine total considering Yorkshire were put into bat and that they have the superior bowlers, but Bairstow made it even better in company with the resolute Patterson.
The pair, who began on 24 and eight respectively, added 91 for the ninth-wicket to lift Yorkshire to a fourth batting point and to within 17 runs of a fifth and final point by the time the 110-over cut-off mark arrived.
In glorious sunshine, Bairstow batted like the weather itself as he thumped Harry Gurney for two straight fours to immediately reinforce his authority, while Patterson displayed bravery and no little skill to withstand everything the home team could throw at him.
Patterson was 10 shy of his second first-class fifty when Andre Adams had him caught behind to give Chris Read his sixth catch of the innings, leaving Yorkshire 396-9.
Bairstow flicked Adams to the backward square-boundary to raise the 400 and then pulled him for four with murderous flourish.
But the New Zealander had his revenge when Bairstow was bowled aiming another expansive shot after striking 62 from 70 balls with 11 fours.
Luke Fletcher could reflect on splendid figures of 5-93, while Gurney chipped in with 3-71.
Nottinghamshire were left with a tricky 35 minutes before lunch and Sidebottom made them distinctly uncomfortable with the wickets of Alex Hales (caught behind) and Michael Lumb (lbw) for ducks.
As cloud cover descended, as if mocking the hosts, Patterson pounced with the final ball of the first over after the re-start when Steven Mullaney nibbled to the keeper.
Sidebottom’s third wicket was the product of a clear plan and a superb piece of athleticism by Phil Jaques, who leapt at mid-wicket to pluck from the air a firm clip off the pads by Samit Patel.
Nottinghamshire fell to 57-5 in the 16th over when Patterson had David Hussey lbw and to 59-6 in the 17th when Riki Wessels played at a ball from Sidebottom he might have left and was caught behind.
The scorecard assumed embarrassing proportions for Read and his men when the captain himself was seventh out at 61, lbw to a full-length delivery from Patterson.
Another inventive piece of captaincy appeared to account for Fletcher, whom Patterson had caught at short mid-off by Adil Rashid to leave Nottinghamshire 65-8.
After the rain relented, Nottinghamshire did well to more than double their total and were thus indebted to Adams and Ajmal Shahzad.
Adams, who bats like a mad axe-man, clubbed 39 from 17 balls with three sixes and three fours before holing out to Sidebottom at long-leg to give Patterson his fifth wicket.
Shahzad, with whom Adams added 50 for the ninth-wicket in 34 balls, was unbeaten on 41 from 61 deliveries when last man Gurney was caught at cover off Rashid’s fourth delivery.
It gave Yorkshire a lead of 257, and with the bowlers still fresh and Saturday’s weather forecast unpromising, Andrew Gale had an easy decision to enforce the follow-on.
Nottinghamshire were soon in trouble at 28-2, Jack Brooks having Alex Hales caught behind and Sidebottom removing Mullaney lbw.
Lumb and Patel added 45 before the former tamely patted back a return catch to Plunkett.
Plunkett struck again when Patel was brilliantly caught one-handed by substitute fielder Rich Pyrah at backward square-leg before bad light claimed the last seven overs.