COUNTY cricket’s Twenty20 holiday can often decisively shift the momentum of a team’s season. Durham have seemingly lost theirs, and are struggling to do much about it.
Since returning from concentrating full-time on the shortest form of the game, the Riversiders’ title rivals have built a head of steam and they have been unable to respond with a win. It made yesterday doubly frustrating.
It would be a day when cricket shot itself in the foot as only it can. No one was to blame for the players having their feet up until 3.45pm. They tried their best to get on before then, but when Hampshire and their rugby ball came out, rain quickly followed.
A spell at the end of the day was more farcical.
The umpires had brought the players off for bad light, and with the time 5.18pm, that looked like that. But at 6pm they were back and Mitchell Claydon stood at the top of his mark ready to finish the over he started when the drizzle returned. It was such a brief shower that Durham and the umpires had not even left the field when it stopped, but Jimmy Adams and Neil McKenzie were off in a flash.
They were brought back a few minutes later, at the loss of a couple more overs.
It was the last thing Durham needed. With rain about this week, they need to make the most of what cricket is squeezed in. Even if a run which has seen them fail to win a four-dayer since June cannot be arrested, bonus points matter.
After coming out for a final time yesterday, they bagged a bowling point which could prove crucial in a tight title race.
One area where Durham certainly cannot bemoan their luck is at the toss of the coin. Ten times out of ten this season Phil Mustard has called correctly. The odds on doing that are one in 1,024.
Mustard decided to bowl first, and with murky overhead conditions and a green-ish pitch, it was easy to see why. Conditions were tailored to Callum Thorp and, with two wickets in his first 19 balls, he made good use of them.
Thorp’s initial five-over burst cost just five runs. Liam Dawson drove at him from the day’s fourth delivery and although the ball was dying on Michael Di Venuto, he got there in time to prove his damaged finger had healed by taking the catch.
Michael Carberry, fresh from his unbeaten 300 on a flat Rose Bowl pitch last week, made just four before Thorp got one to leave him. He edged into Mustard’s gloves.
Coming on at 15-2 off 10 overs, the first-change bowlers undid Thorp’s good work.
Making his first Championship appearance this season in the absence of Ben Stokes, Scott Borthwick, Paul Collingwood and Stephen Harmison – whose return to fitness is “not imminent” says coach Geoff Cook – McKenzie welcomed Chris Rushworth with consecutive legside fours.
McKenzie played for Durham in 2008 without reaching 50 in the Championship but, fresh from pairing up with Carberry in a record-breaking 523-run stand, is four short of doing it against them. The pull when Graeme Onions dropped short late showed a man in form.
As his dominance of the scoring underlined, bottom-of-the-table Hampshire need McKenzie. Their batting had been weakened earlier in the day with the news that former Yorkshire batsman and England Twenty20 world champion Michael Lumb has played his last game for them – he is joining Nottinghamshire next season.
Durham were left to chip away at the other end, as they had to no great effect at the Rose Bowl in Sunday’s Twenty20 quarter-final.
Two balls after the on-off shenanigans, Adams cut to the boundary to bring up Hampshire’s 50. But, playing late, he chopped on the next. Three wickets in the bag, an annoying day had perhaps been worth it after all.