Smith takes five wickets as Durham clinch narrow win
Four outstanding days of cricket ended at 4.40pm when Chris Rushworth drove the winning runs to the cover boundary to clinch a narrow two-wicket victory for Durham in this Specsavers County Championship match at Southport.
In sweltering conditions, on an easing pitch, it was Keaton Jennings and Jack Burnham who compiled a century partnership either side of lunch that looked to be steering Durham to victory.
Tom Smith, with an inspired spell of 5-25, threatened to turn the game on its head during the middle of the day, but the visitors clung on to reach their target of 247 with eight wickets down.
The day started in sensational fashion however when Kyle Jarvis struck with the last ball of the first over after Mark Stoneman played across the line to be lbw for 1.
It was the perfect start for Lancashire but Jennings and Scott Borthwick hit back with a succession of boundaries as Steven Croft kept attacking fields in the hunt for further success.
Just when the batsmen looked be getting the upper hand, having added 41 runs in 15 overs, Borthwick edged Smith to Alviro Petersen-who took a good catch low down at gully-to depart for 28 with the score on 47-2.
However that proved to be the last success during the morning for the Red Rose.
The introduction of spin, with Simon Kerrigan and Matt Parkinson soon bowling in tandem, asked questions of the Durham batsmen with fielders crowded around the bat, but Jennings and Jack Burnham survived to reach lunch on 97-2, 150 runs away from their target.
Jennings, one of the leading run scorers in county cricket this season, reached his fifty off 104 balls and his composed innings of 82 was the foundation of the visitors’ successful run chase.
Burnham survived a strong lbw appeal against Jarvis in the first over after the break and was then dropped at slip off Kerrigan, a difficult, sharp, chance-and he made the most of the let off by hitting both Croft and Kerrigan for sixes in making 52 before falling lbw to the left arm spinner.
That wicket ended a partnership of 123 from 39.1 overs, and with Durham at that point 77 runs away from victory there was little hint of the drama to follow.
Smith was the catalyst with a sensational spell from the Harrod Road End of 8-3-12-4 before tea to once again put the game back in the balance.
Jennings departed after top edging a Smith delivery that Tom Moores did well to catch with the ball dropping from high out of the sun.
Michael Richardson edged Smith down the leg side to Moores for 3, Paul Collingwood was lbw to Smith for 4 and Moores then took an outstanding diving catch off Smith to dismiss Paul Coughlin for 5.
Five wickets had fallen for 25 runs inside 11 overs to leave Durham on 195-7 and still requiring 52 runs for victory just before tea.
The visitors appeared more settled after the break with Ben Stokes taking a leading role in scoring 36 and finding support from Adam Hickey.
The pair steadily picked off the runs before hitting out effectively as the target came down, Stokes hitting three big sixes, incuding one on to the railway lines, while Hickey impressed when pulling high over the ropes to the pavilion.
A running mix-up cost Stokes his wicket with four runs needed, but Mark Stoneman hit his second ball to the boundary to seal the win.
Lancashire take 4 points from the match and Durham 21.
Tom Smith’s last three five-wicket hauls have all come against Durham (the previous two both in 2014) and he said: “It’s been a tough four days but a great game of cricket.
“It ebbed and flowed all the way through, and we are gutted not to come out on top.
“I thought we had a very competitive score on the board and Proccy batted really well with Tom Moores yesterday.
“It was really disappointing to not get over the line.
Smith lit up the afternoon with as good a spell as he’s bowled in recent times and admitted, “I needed to after dropping a catch.
“I’m very happy to get some wickets but I dropped a very important catch so it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
“I felt in really good rhythm and it felt like I was bowling like my old self. It was a great confidence boost for my body (to bowl like that).
“It builds a lot of confidence going forward through the (remainder of the season for me, to know my body can do it.”
Smith was quick to dispel any concerns about his back after leaving the field on the second day saying, “I had a bit of a spasm. It was in a completely different area to where I’ve had all my problems – which was good!”
Ashley Giles reflected on the game saying: “It’s been a great spectacle for everyone who has come to watch, but disappointing for us being on the wrong side of it and being so close.
“I thought for the last two days we’ve played some really good cricket after giving up an 87-run lead and bat as we did yesterday led by Luke Procterand and fight back this afternoon as well.
“The pitch didn’t deteriorate as much as we thought it might, but there was always something in it for the seamers. There were times when it went flat and times when wickets fell in clumps.
“I’m proud of the team for what they’ve done in the last two days. They’ve fought hard and if we keep playing like that, and start games in that manner, then we’ll be fine.
“We are good when we are behind the eight-ball, but we’ve got to start games better.
Lancashire are in fourth place in the table on 121 points after 10 games and Giles added: “All we can do is concentrate on trying to win games of cricket.
"We have to be confident. There are six games left and we're one win off the top with all these sides to play. It's going to be tough.
"Our goals have changed from the start of the season. It's gone from 'look, we've yo-yoed in the Championship and we need to stay up to us being in the top half of the league for most of the season and now we're challenging'.
"We've got quite a lot of young players growing in Division One, but we are playing good cricket and we aim to win every game. If we do, we'll be in a good spot.
"It's a tight division. There are six games left and we have about 120 points.
“There's a lot of cricket to be played, and we have to go in with a positive mindset, which is 'we're still in the race'.”
Photos © Craig Galloway