Lancashire endured a frustrating day in the field as Durham grabbed the advantage after two days at the Durham Emirates ground today.
Rain and bad light wiped out 25 overs of play, the majority of them during the morning session due to wet weather, but there was still enough time for the home side to respond well to Lancashire’s first day 313.
Ben Stokes scored a brilliant unbeaten century off the last ball of the day as Durham finished on 279-3 from 71 overs, and they will resume tomorrow morning only 34 runs behind.
Lancashire seamer Tom Smith said: “We spoke before the game and said that we’ve played somewhere around 60 sessions of cricket this year and dominated nearly all of them.
“This wasn’t our day, but we definitely created chances. It was a tough day, but we’re fighters, we’ll come back strong.
“When we rocked up on the first morning there was a green tinge to the pitch. It seems to have flattened out now, and is quite nice to bat on. But, on another day, we might have got a few more wickets because we beat the bat on a number of occasions.”
Gordon Muchall and Dale Benkenstein also notched half-centuries, although the difference in quality between the knocks played by Stokes and Benkenstein, and that of Muchall was glaring.
While Stokes and Benkenstein, who reached 67 not out, gave Lancashire very little cause for optimism during their unbroken fourth wicket alliance of 185 inside 47 overs, Muchall rode his luck throughout.
He edge through or over the Lancashire slip cordon on a handful of occasions, whilst also nearly chopping onto his stumps on the way to 54 off 63 balls.
“Credit to Stokes and Benkenstein, they played very well,” continued Smith. “We had our game-plans to each batter, but they combated them quite well.”
Muchall, the right-handed number three, was the main protagonist in taking 17 off Luke Procter’s first over, although Procter was understandably aggrieved that he was not going into his second over with his name already in the wicket column.
Muchall found the third-man fence three times during the 16th over of the innings. He had shared 84 with opener Will Smith after Red Rose skipper Glen Chapple had Michael Di Venuto caught behind by Gareth Cross as the opener tried to leave alone in the third over, the score being 6-1.
Lancashire were helped by a brief delay for bad light, the umpires deducting two more overs from the day’s allocation. It enabled the visitors to regroup and strike twice within six balls shortly after returning to the field of play.
Smith (W) played at a ball he need not have from Procter and edged behind to Gareth Cross for 30 before Smith (T) trapped Muchall lbw as he played back to one that kept a touch low. And that left Durham wobbling a little bit at 94-3 in the 25th over.
But Stokes and Benkenstein united to change the momentum of the day, and possibly the match too. They both reached their fifties off 94 balls, with Stokes’ six boundaries only one more than his more experienced partner.
Stokes then offered a sharp chance to Paul Horton at first slip off the bowling of Gary Keedy on 84, but Horton could not hold on as he dived away to his left.
And the England Lions left-hander, whose particular strength was through the covers on the back foot, then reached three figures in that manner off the spin of Steven Croft as the day came to a close. He will resume on 100 off 149 balls tomorrow and Benkenstein 67 off 133.
Smith added: “Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully we can come back well in the morning.”
Day 1 Report
Photo (c) Chris Ison/PA Wire/Press Association Images
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