Durham v Derbyshire: In short this is a flawed policy

Twenty20 cricket has done plenty to enrich the longer forms of the game, but yesterday was a reminder of the cost

Durham in action against Derbyshire
Durham in action against Derbyshire

Twenty20 cricket has done plenty to enrich the longer forms of the game, but yesterday was a reminder of the cost.

It is thanks to limited-overs cricket, and its shortest form in particular, that we have inventive shots like the reverse-sweep Phil Mustard deployed yesterday – and, indeed, in almost every innings.

Like the scoring rates and yesterday even Derbyshire’s over-rate, fielding has improved beyond recognition and skills which were once the preserve of a gifted few, like the yorkers both sets of bowlers used to good effect, have become commonplace.

But if anyone was looking for a reason why not to crowbar a four-day game into the Twenty20 window, Durham provided it yesterday. This game started less than 48 hours after their Twenty20 Cup defeat to Nottinghamshire and if it goes the distance – admittedly it may not on the early evidence – the turn-around to their next hit-and-giggle will be around half that.

It explains a lot.

Once the sun burned off the early-morning clouds and started beating down on a grassless pitch it seemed incomprehensible Wayne Madsen had opted to bowl after winning the toss. An underwhelming 253 all out later, and with the second new ball swinging prodigiously, it did not look such a hair-brained idea.

It is no coincidence Durham’s best player was one of only two – and the only batsman – not to have featured in this year’s Twenty20 Cup.

Keaton Jennings is seen as too plodding for the crash-bang-wallop, a throwback to the days when openers were supposed to see conditions like those at Chester-le-Street yesterday and think of nothing but batting for six hours.

That he failed to do so had nothing to do with impatience, everything to do with his desperation to record a first County Championship century so in this form of the game at least, he can start to cement his place.

There was a calmness about Jennings even when stand-in captain Mark Stoneman chipped to mid-off from the day’s 18th ball – something Ben Stokes, held back by illness, later repeated – but it seemed to ebb the closer three figures came. Seven adrift, he crept his long front leg out in the way of the ball and was lbw. It was far from the positive stride of a laid-back batsman.

Playing only his seventh Championship game, and now averaging 26, the South African is not entitled to be brash. He has been dropped twice already this season.

Jennings comes across as an intense individual, but as Nick Compton’s brief Test career has shown, sometimes you can want something too much. The 21-year-old probably just needs to be told how good he is, and better still that the opening berth is his for some time yet. Having closely monitored his second-team career, interim coach Jon Lewis is as well placed as anyone to remind Jennings of his worth, although just watching the DVD of his eight classy fours should be enough. As a former opener and a canny coach, Lewis will be encouraged by the fact Jennings grafted 222 deliveries before falling to Wes Durston with the score also on double-Nelson.

It was certainly reassuring to hear one of the nicest men you could possibly meet on a cricket ground speaking of extending his best score rather than missing his maiden century.

“I’m obviously a little bit disappointed, but I’m glad I’m achieving the little goals I’ve set myself and I’m slowly building on the starts I’ve been getting this season,” Jennings said. “Hopefully next time I can convert.”

His partnerships with Will Smith and Mustard hinted at more but, like the man himself, failed to make three figures. When the new ball swept away the lower order it left what seemed a below-par total.

Jennings anchor role allowed Mustard to play with relative, if not Twenty20 freedom. The wicketkeeper is often pigeonholed as a short-form specialist but a fourth Championship half-century of 2013 kept his average in the 50s. Like three team-mates, though, he had no answer to the new ball.

Mark Footitt struck with his first, fourth and fifth deliveries with it to secure career-best figures.

Like Gareth Breese before him, Mustard was undone by its extra bounce and Jonathan Clare’s outstanding slip fielding. Virtually no bounce at all caused Callum Thorp’s demise, Durham’s other Twenty20 outcast lbw.

Tim Groenewald probably still cannot believe how the delivery which beat Chris Rushworth also missed his stumps and his mood will not have been improved by the batsmen hitting his next ball through the covers for four. Seeing him play around a yorker two deliveries later might, though.

Rushworth took note, trapping Chesney Hughes with a full ball of his own two deliveries into a spell of boomeranging swing.

By the end of a glorious day, 11 wickets had been taken. Jennings refused to fall back on the Twenty20 excuse.

“You still take your basics from the same elements – good balance, hitting in your areas,” he pointed out. “Your body positions don’t really change that much,

“You just have to change your mind-set to make sure you’re disciplined in leaving and making sure you know which areas are yours and which areas aren’t.”

Whether it is down to Twenty20 vision or not, Durham can only hope Derbyshire lapse into similar problems telling their areas from their elbows.

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