With tea fast approaching on day two, Durham’s County Championship game against Lancashire seemed to be heading for another draw – their seventh in eight matches this season.
However, when Michael Richardson dived forward at gully to hand Paul Coughlin a maiden Championship wicket, the match was utterly revitalised.
Seven more wickets followed for 61 runs and suddenly Durham were controlling a game which appeared to be drifting away.
No one epitomised the transformation better than Ben Stokes, the match-winner Durham struggled without in the season’s early weeks.
Stokes’ fourth spell represented a gamble by Paul Collingwood.
At that stage the 23-year-old had done nothing to embarrass watching England selector James Whitaker, his 11 overs going for 75 runs.
The outstanding player of a dismal winter Ashes tour was left out of the Lord’s Test and told to get more overs under his belt. He made the most of his opportunity only in the sense he squeezed in an extra eight deliveries by overstepping the crease and being told to bowl them again.
The wicket of Alex Davies owed more to the batsman and gully fielder Richardson. With Durham’s spearhead profligate, batting was starting to look comfortable – as it has done too often at Chester-le-Street this season.
In bowling the fuller length they needed to get the ball to swing, Durham were driven more than they would have been comfortable with – particularly once Usman Khawaja got his eye in.
The tendency has been to blame the dominance of the bat on flat pitches but the new theory in Durham’s dressing room is perhaps soft balls are to blame.
This year’s batch do not seem very durable, judging by the high number which have been changed, and Lancashire felt it was a factor in Phil Mustard’s record-breaking stand with Coughlin in Durham’s first innings.
Whatever it was, runs were coming too easily in the sunshine until Durham changed tack shortly before tea.
Coughlin took three wickets in 24 scoreless deliveries, while Rushworth produced his first three maidens of the match back-to-back.
The debutant’s maiden Championship wicket was the vital one, removing Lancashire’s overseas batsman Khawaja for 86.
As soon as he went, a promising innings subsided.
Steven Croft was caught in the slips from the second delivery after tea, again bowled by the Wearsider.
Like Davies, Ashwell Prince drove loosely with a half-century in sight and Mustard took the catch.
Rather then being the release, Stokes slotted in with 2-22 from seven overs.
While Tom Smith could have done with moving his feet before driving, the angle Stokes slanted the ball across him did for the left-hander.
A tight fourth-stump line accounted for Jos Buttler, who laboured for 54 deliveries over his eight.
Only a catch dropped by Mustard denied Stokes a fourth victim. Kabir Ali’s under-edge was a difficult opportunity better left to first slip, but it is hard to criticise a wicketkeeper for taking responsibility. By then John Hastings was taking the wickets Lady Luck owed him. The big Australian is one of the few bowlers who can claim to have been denied a wicket by a Collingwood drop. Durham’s captain got both hands to an edge from Davies. Glen Chapple missed a full ball from Hastings and was bowled, while Kyle Hogg and Simon Kerrigan top-edged shots best ignored in the situation and the Red Rose were bowled out for a 72-run deficit – extended to 88 by Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings by the close.
Earlier, Coughlin made the highest score by a Durham player on his Championship debut since Nicky Peng’s 98 against Surrey in 2000.
His county record ninth-wicket stand with Mustard reached 150 the ball before he played down the wrong line and was bowled for 85.
Rushworth’s checked drive for four off the third ball he faced was not enough to inspire confidence in his cousin and Mustard charged down the pitch to the first delivery he faced after Coughlin’s departure and was caught behind for 70.
CAPTAIN Calum MacLeod made 90 and Matt Milnes took 5-39 as Durham beat Derbyshire by two wickets in the Second XI Trophy.
Meanwhile, the Riversiders are hopeful Usman Arshad will recover from a lower leg injury for Friday’s Twenty20 visit of Leicestershire.