England selector Mick Newell had long since left the press box when Mark Wood served up yet another reminder of why he has a future in international cricket.
If his 4-76 came too late to further his own cause, he at least saved face for his captain.
Paul Collingwood was lured in by a pockmarked pitch – a mistake Adam Lyth said many opposition captains fall for – to bowling first against Yorkshire in yesterday’s County Championship game.
From the distance of the press box it seemed an odd decision without Ben Stokes and with Graham Onions’ only bowling coming during lunch.
Two-hundred-and-seventy runs and no wickets later, it was clear Collingwood had made a mistake. Then Wood came to life.
His previous two first-innings efforts have yielded 4-75 and 5-37. The problem is that in between time he has injured his side and had a cyst removed from his ankle.
The man from Ashington can do serious damage to opposition batting line-ups, but seems to be even better at doing damage to himself. If the story of Durham’s season has been bowling well with the new ball, then struggling when it goes soft, yesterday was the reverse.
The only surprise was that reverse did not come into it, Wood attributing his four wickets in 11 balls to conventional swing with a ball due to be changed.
With the exception of the last delivery of the third over, which scuttled through from Chris Rushworth, Durham scarcely had a sniff in the opening session. They reined Lyth and Alex Lees in during the afternoon but when they found the edge it either went into the gaps or the gloves of Phil Mustard, which unfortunately are unusually unreliable at present. Only as the ball got near the stage where it was due to be replaced did Durham do anything with it.
Drives were a theme of Yorkshire’s biggest opening partnership against the Riversiders, indicating the bowlers pitched the ball too full.
Leg-spinner Scott Borthwick was on for the 22nd over of the game, a clear indication things were not going well as Yorkshire just short of 150 runs by lunch.
Rushworth and John Hastings set a more disciplined tone after what Wood described as “a rollicking from Colly”, the former conceding five runs from his opening six-over spell, but if you give any batsman – least of all one of Lyth’s quality – such a headstart, stopping him is always going to be difficult. Being rapped on the knuckles by Wood on 80 did nothing to slow an opener who came into the game averaging 53 in the Championship. He made a century against Durham at Chester-le-Street in May, and added his first at Headingley.
As is normally the way when batsmen have so many runs under their belt, fortune favoured them.
Keaton Jennings was on his heels on the square leg boundary when Lyth’s pull dropped short. In the 90s an edge fell just in front of Borthwick, the finer of two gullies, while another flew through vacant second slip. An edge went between the gullies when Lees had 74.
Paul Coughlin was cursing Collingwood’s field settings, and thought he had Lees feathering behind on 77. Richard Kettleborough disagreed.
He ought to have had Lees with the score on 218-0, but this time Durham only had themselves to blame.
The left-hander fended a back-of-a-length ball head-high to Mustard’s left. He had plenty of time to see it, yet put it down. A couple of good recent Twenty20 innings raised hopes of a batting return to form, but his glovework is a real concern. The time may be right to mentally refresh a player who hardly ever misses a game.
More than five-and-a-half hours after starting his innings, Lees’ concentration lapsed enough to give Durham a breakthrough, shuffling back and across his stumps to be trapped lbw by Borthwick. Wood had shown in glimpses he could get more out of the pitch than his colleagues, rearing one at Lyth midway through the day to beat both batsman and wicketkeeper, but until then the 24-year-old had been more guilty than anyone of serving up full, wide deliveries.
The delivery which trapped Lees lbw kept slightly low. That this pitch is already showing unpredictable bounce is yet another reason why batting last is not an enticing prospect, as was the rough Borthwick created with a follow-through which attracted Kettleborough’s attention, but no more, from the off.
Andrew Gale made it a hat-trick of lbws when he failed to get his foot to the ball and swished across its line. Wood moved the ball back in to bowl Jonny Bairstow and Jack Leaning.
By the time Leaning’s timber was rearranged, the new ball was due, but Collingwood held it back 3.2 overs. When he saw Aaron Finch and Adil Rashid smack 46 from 8.2 overs, he might have wished he had delayed it longer still, but Wood had got through six overs and his fragility means asking longer spells of the strike bowler is a risk.
Onions is close to returning from a back injury. “I think he would have said he was ready,” said Wood.
Perhaps it boiled down to the fact Durham could not risk bringing two players back from injury. That they felt able to pick Wood rather than the slightly greater gamble on Onions, is a tribute to the youngster.