Three matches played by Durham in this season’s County Championship, and three times cricket has been beaten by a lifeless pitch.
Given that his side were for once the beneficiaries, it should come as no surprise that Paul Collingwood was quite happy about it.
Old “Brigadier Block” was in his element. Forty-two for four, following-on with a ball shy of 42 overs to survive, Collingwood was in single figures for scoring shots during his stoical 91-delivery innings. An edge was gloved just short of gully on nine, another went wide of Adam Lyth, his weight moving the wrong way at slip, on 10.
Otherwise it was remorseless, grinding stuff.
“I don’t think it’s a worry,” Collingwood said of the flat pitches. “It’s quite a good test for international cricket. If you just have wickets that swing and seam all the way through the year you don’t really find much about players.
“You’ve got to make sure that if people are going to play at the next level they understand what’s needed. Sometimes you can be shocked a bit coming from county cricket.
“They’re going to have to get better at finding ways to take wickets.
“Yorkshire threw everything at us. Some of the spells Liam Plunkett threw at us were international class. He bowled with serious pace and all elements of cricket were tested. The boys managed to get a draw out of it.
“A lot of credit goes to the character and skill levels shown.
“When you don’t play at your best you’ve got make sure you’re hard to beat and it looks like the spirit is still there.
“That was tough, tough cricket for the tailenders in the morning, but they still dug in there and that shows a lot about the character of the side. We’ll scrap right to the end.”
With the help of the rain which took 11 overs out of the day, the tail dragged Durham’s first innings beyond lunch, though not by much.
Jamie Harrison played a lovely drive for four through long-off seconds before the day’s first shower, and when he came back he was bowled through the gate driving at Kane Williamson. He is a much improved batsman this season, averaging 55 at this early stage.
After 100 balls’ resistance, Graham Onions was caught behind to a delivery tight to off-stump. Still trailing by 210, Durham were unsurprisingly asked to bat again – for the first time since July 2011, and the first on this normally low-scoring ground since April 2010.
Mark Stoneman was run out in the unluckiest fashion possible, 127 short of his first innings’ tally. He was backing up when Plunkett fingertipped Keaton Jennings’ straight drive on to the stumps.
One wicket was all it took to expose Durham. They have been unfortunate Scott Borthwick damaged his finger, although given he did it dropping a catch, perhaps we should not be too sympathetic. With Gareth Breese dropped, it left Durham minus a frontline spinner, and with back-to-back batsmen not at their best.
Borthwick may not be able to bowl at Hove on Sunday either.
“I think he’s had a scan on the finger,” said Collingwood. “I don’t think it’s broken but it’s pretty sore.” Ben Stokes sees a specialist about his broken wrist on Monday but is “weeks off”.
Borthwick went to the next ball after Stoneman, an excellent Jack Brooks bouncer he was unable to avoid, bringing out Kumar Sangakkara on a pair.
The Sri Lankan is here to get used to conditions ahead of his country’s tour of England. It was always going to be a tall order to show much form in only a two-game stint.
Yorkshire were convinced Sangakkara had bagged his pair, playing outside off-stump from his fifth ball. Television replays were available, but not the Decision Review System.
Sangakkara might have survived anyway as it was very hard to tell if his bat had hit leather, turf or both but it was uncomfortably close. Brooks ought to have had him again from his next over, only for the diving Plunkett to down the catch at the finer of two gullies.
When Sangakkara scored his first four, Jonny Bairstow touched the ball but no more at point.
Eventually his luck ran out, chasing a wide one he cut to Adam Lyth, who did brilliantly to reach it at second slip then hold on after some juggling.
Borthwick’s contribution to the match was two runs, one catch and two drops; Sangakkara’s was 14 runs, one catch and a drop. Thirty-five for three became 42-4 at 3.11pm when Michael Richardson edged Adil Rashid’s first ball of the innings into Andrew Hodd’s gloves.
Then the shutters came down.
Jennings’ 54 not out was almost as obdurate as Collingwood. In keeping with other spells of this game – notably the second afternoon – it was not a great advert for county cricket, but having put themselves on the back foot with their bowlers’ first-day indiscipline, Durham were in no position to argue at another draw.