Nottinghamshire 50 for 0 trail Durham 230 (Dickson 54, Patterson-White 5-54) by 180 runs

Stuart Broad has shunned this game as what has the makings of part preparation, part election campaign ahead of the start of England’s Test summer, but Nottinghamshire prospered in his absence as they produced what was probably their best bowling day of the season. A surprise defeat against Glamorgan last week underlined that even such short-price favourites for Division Two can come a cropper and to dismiss Durham for only 230 in favourable batting conditions was an excellent response. They will expect to top 400-plus in reply.

Following their bore draw against Leicestershire last week, Durham’s keenest observers had feared more mental torture on what one observer described as “the turgid side of the square”. The pitch did appear to be just as placid and unresponsive, but they collapsed on it anyway, Sean Dickson’s pre-lunch half-century, replete with offside drives, the only innings of substance in a flaccid batting performance. They have also lost Liam Trevaskis, who needed a concussion substitute after he was twice hit on the helmet late in the afternoon session by the Australian quick, James Pattinson.

Strikingly, for Chester-le-Street in April, five wickets went to the left-arm spinner, Liam Patterson-White, who was born in nearby Sunderland before the family upped sticks for the Midlands and who bowled his 26.4 overs unchanged from before lunch to return 5 for 54 and keep the pace bowlers fresh while he did so.

Scott Borthwick gifted him a wicket, driving at a wide one to be caught at slip, as did Ben Raine, more forgivably, last out as he lofted to long-on. He also had three lbws, with both Keegan Petersen and Matthew Potts deceived low on the back foot. Somewhere along the line he turned one sharply which was the biggest shock of all. On a circuit not exactly renowned for English spin bowling, he is quietly building a decent career.

England’s premier fast bowlers have regularly been bracketed together since they were both omitted from the tour of the West Indies, but they have taken different tacks in this round of the Championship: James Anderson playing for Lancashire where he was outshone by Hasan Ali, Broad choosing to delay his entrance until Worcestershire head to Trent Bridge next week. As a centrally-contracted player, even one currently out of the side, it remains logical for him to prepare with the prospect of four back-to-back Tests in June and July and, in his mind, that is likely to mean only three Championship matches at Trent Bridge and Lord’s.

“At the end of the day, getting back into the England team for me is not about taking lots of wickets in Division Two,” Broad said in his Daily Mail column. “Whether I take 10 or 45 in that first period of the season will not be the main factor for me as a bowler with 537 Test wickets, and good form in my recent international appearances.

“For a bowler like me or Jimmy Anderson, it’s not so much about the numbers, it’s about being fit physically and mentally and ready for the battle and we won’t be in prime physical condition playing every week.”

For the much-criticised Championship, of course, becoming an occasional practice ground because of a non-stop fixture list both at county and international level is entirely detrimental. What could have been an intriguing match-up between Broad and Alex Lees – a contest that could have revealed something about their England qualities – existed only as a pang of regret that it would not take place. Lees also missed the game because of a back complaint. It is not just county cricket that does not serve England, it is England that does not serve England.

This is not to question Broad’s right under current structures to prepare as he sees fit. It is a curse of being so exceptional for so long that Anderson and Broad have automatically created a tension of succession because those who must one day replace them have yet to prove they are up to the job. Seniority brings with it knowledge, craft and strong opinions. It is their very raging against the dying of the light, as well as their skill, that has contributed to their exceptional longevity. And, if they can occasionally be cussed dressing room companions, as has often been intimated, then perhaps a certain amount of irritation is understandable as England have slipped towards the foot of the Test championship. It is down to others to out-perform them. There again, in a disparaged and diminished Championship where exactly do they do it?

Instead of displaying the best of English cricket, Chester-le-Street offered up leading South Africans and Australians by way of compensation. Dane Paterson had anticipated with relish meeting up with former Cape Cobras team-mates, Petersen and David Bedingham, suggesting their knowledge of each other’s game put him at an advantage, and his dismissal of Bedingham soon after lunch, edging one that hinted at inswing but failed to linger on that path, was a key moment in Durham’s afternoon collapse. Dickson, reinventing himself as a Championship opener at the age of 30, had departed the last ball before lunch, as Luke Fletcher took his 600th professional wicket.

The most disturbing moments came shortly before tea when Pattinson, who has a mean short ball, twice clanked Trevaskis on the helmet as he ducked into deliveries. The first blow rang out sickeningly around the members’ stand, but he passed his concussion test and continued; the second blow, which struck him barely above stump height, brought about his retirement from the game. George Drissell, a spin bowler signed in the close-season from Gloucestershire, was a like-for-like replacement. He was greeted by two bouncers, this time from Paterson, and must have briefly mused whether like-for-like replacements really had to withstand like-for-like deliveries.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps