Samit Patel delivered an object lesson in concentration to post a hugely impressive career-best first-class score and put Second Division leaders Nottinghamshire firmly in charge on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship match, against Gloucestershire at the Brightside Ground in Bristol.
The 32-year-old former England batsman combined patience and graft in an innings of 257 not out that spanned more than eight hours as the visitors made a mammoth 535-8 declared to establish a commanding first-innings lead of 232.
Gloucestershire reached the close on 30-1 in their second innings, trail by 202 and will have to apply themselves with the bat if they are to stave off defeat on the final day.
Unbeaten in the four-day format so far this season, Nottinghamshire worked hard to wrestle control of a contest that had been pretty much even up to its halfway point.
Demonstrating a clear understanding of what was required on a typically slow Bristol pitch, Patel settled in for the long haul to eclipse his previous highest first-class score of 256, made against Durham MCCU at Trent Bridge in 2013.
Resuming on 78 not out, he registered his first three-figure Championship haul of the season before lunch, completed a double century during the afternoon session and then opened his shoulders to move serenely to a landmark total after tea.
Unable to time the ball as he would have liked and seldom fluent, Patel’s innings was scarcely a thing of beauty. Yet a sparse County Ground audience, appreciating his diligence and application in trying circumstances, rose as one to acknowledge his achievement when he pushed a delivery from David Payne to mid-on for a single to reach 257 and prompt the declaration.
Although several of his fellow batsmen made starts and failed to go on to post meaningful totals, they nevertheless afforded Nottinghamshire’s 2017 beneficiary the support he needed to dominate proceedings.
Having helped stage a stand of 146 for the third wicket with Cheteshwar Punjari on day two, Patel dominated partnerships of 54, 46, 83 and 94 with Michael Lumb, Riki Wessels, Chris Read and Luke Wood for the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth wickets respectively.
Intent upon containment first and foremost, Gloucestershire’s bowlers in the main adhered to the tenets of line and length before tiring beneath the afternoon sun and in the face of Patel’s relentless compilation.
Craig Miles removed nightwatchman Fletcher without scoring and Chris Liddle produced a superb delivery to pin Lumb lbw during a morning session which yielded 92 runs. Undone by Jack Taylor’s off spin, Wessels departed in similar fashion shortly after lunch and Kieran Noema-Barnett summoned an in-swinger to bowl the progressive Read for 40 as the home side threatened a fightback.
But Patel, who raised 100 from 224 balls and faced a further 153 deliveries in making a double hundred, pressed down on the accelerator during the final session to confirm east Midlands supremacy.
In all, he batted for eight hours and 16 minutes, negotiating 452 balls and accruing 23 fours and a six. He offered one glimmer of a chance on 186, Payne failing to take a tough catch on the long-on boundary.
Patel’s long sojourn was lent additional perspective when Cameron Bancroft was trapped lbw for two, going half forward to his second ball from Fletcher in the very first over.
Thereafter, Bristolians Chris Dent and Will Tavare served up defiance aplenty to survive a tricky 10-over spell in failing light and afford Gloucestershire renewed hope.