Right until what turned out to be its final delivery, it had been an inconclusive day’s cricket for Durham, but they will return to Chester-le-Street this morning expecting to end their eight-match winless sequence in the County Championship.
“Hopefully we’ve got enough on the board,” said Scott Borthwick, which is as close as you are likely to get a professional cricketer to say he expects to win with a microphone under his nose.
The game against Lancashire is not over – far from it. The Red Rose have already shown in this game they can make runs when the sun is shining.
Three hundred and forty would be a record winning score on this ground – just – but as Nottinghamshire demonstrated in knocking off 387 in only 75 of the 85 overs they were given yesterday, run-chases are easier than they used to be.
However, Chris Rushworth removing the visiting openers lbw in the first and last over of the mini-session made Durham’s task that much easier. They need eight wickets to Lancashire’s 299 more runs.
The only fly in the ointment is that after a few scares Lancashire’s first-innings top-scorer – Usman Khawaja – remains, the edge Rushworth found having dropped just short of Paul Collingwood in the slips.
Day three was all about Durham batting Lancashire out of the match, but they were incapable of doing so. It was great for the game, less so for the hosts’ prospects of ending a barren run littered with draws.
The overhead conditions made batting far more challenging than it had been the previous day, so Durham will be hoping not to see too much sunshine today.
Having learned the right length to bowl on this ground quicker than most opposition sides, Lancashire stuck to it yesterday and were rewarded with the wickets of both openers before Durham reached 50.
It was obvious from the start the Riversiders were not going to have things their own way. After 11 dot balls to start the morning, Keaton Jennings edged the 12th just wide of second slip Ashwell Prince.
Kyle Hogg made the breakthrough with a fantastic delivery, nipping in late onto Mark Stoneman’s edge. Paul Horton’s catch was worthy of it, low with his outstretched right hand at first sip as wicketkeeper Jos Buttler moved the wrong way. Prince too took a good catch when Glen Chapple got the ball to leave Jennings.
Durham needed two batsmen to stand up and Borthwick identified himself as the first. On the back of a double-hundred in his last match, his first boundary was a clip off his legs.
It was typical of the restrained strokeplay of probably the county’s best technician, and therefore the best man for the job. Borthwick’s drives, cuts and pulls tended to be checked, rather than full-blooded, but timed brilliantly into the gaps.
A six pulled over wide long-on from the first ball of a Simon Kerrigan spell was a rare moment of aggression but there was plenty of positivity. Going back to the former approach ultimately cost him a well-deserved century. Borthwick is coming into form as Michael Richardson is coming out of it, although you might not have guessed from the way the South African eased his first delivery through the covers for four. He was lbw trying to drive Tom Smith before making double figures.
Ben Stokes’ shot was worse, getting a leading edge trying to turn the ball to leg and offering a simple return catch for the first of two double-wicket maidens for Smith on his way to his best figures since 2010.
It did at least bring Borthwick some support, in the shape of Collingwood. Durham’s captain was almost a silent partner, contributing only 27 to the 99-run partnership, but his running between the wickets earned Borthwick runs others may have been unable to give him.
It was Borthwick who succumbed, the ball slipping off the face as he tried to hit Kerrigan back over his head to move to within a scoring shot of three figures. It was his third score in the 90s in little over a year. When John Hastings did the same thing later, Ashwell Prince was unable to get to the ball before it landed.
Smith capitalised, having Gordon Muchall caught behind with an exquisite delivery, then pinning Phil Mustard lbw. The all-rounder has already taken more five-wicket hauls this season than in the rest of his career combined.
Durham needed Collingwood to bat through so he was rightly annoyed to give Prince catching practice from the 13th ball after tea, guiding straight to the slip fielder.
Hastings enjoyed himself, smashing six fours before trying to flick another to leg and instead spooning to cover. A swipe from Paul Coughlin meant Lancashire got only 16 deliveries out of the second new ball.
Rushworth started with a wicket maiden, removing Horton, but Hastings was profligate, bowling six no-balls in his first three overs.
Alex Davies’ wicket gave Durham a new batsman to bowl at this morning – and real cause for optimism.
Max Morley took 3-27 as Derbyshire made 312-7 on day one in the Second XI County Championship at Belper Meadows.