It was men against boys at Chester-le-Street last night. You would think the high-octane, sexy form of cricket would be all about exciting youngsters, but the history of the Twenty20 Cup is dominated by the old guard.
Against a Lancashire side dripping with nous in this form of the game, the Men in Black were left to look rather green.
It was not really by choice.
Callum Thorp was kept on the sidelines but it was not by choice most of Paul Collingwood’s team were of an age where they used to rush home from school to watch him playing for England.
With Dale Benkenstein and Gareth Breese injured, Graham Onions on international duty, Stephen Harmison long since written off and Mitchell Claydon on loan, Max Morley, Ryan Pringle and Mark Wood were making first appearances in the competition. It was Glen Chapple’s 59th.
Lancashire also had three top-class internationals in Ashwell Prince, Simon Katich and Mitchell McClenaghan.
Durham cannot afford an overseas player. It showed in the middle overs. That period of any limited-overs game is the part where brains are as important as brawn.
Katich’s 43 from 25 balls with three sixes propelled Lancashire to 165, nine more than their hosts could muster after a flying start. The Red Rose openers survived three tight runs in the first five overs, Durham hitting the stumps only once.
From the third, Stephen Moore – struck in the third over mistiming a pull at Ben Stokes – injured himself and required lengthy treatment.
While it appeared to discomfort the opener it did little to hamper his batting, making another 68 runs before being run out by Stokes,
Fielding at mid-on the all-rounder, who had dashed up from London to rejoin his club-mates after a spot of international duty, had the commonsense to weigh up the situation and, with both batsmen nearer the bowler’s end than the wicketkeeper’s, threw at the stumps nearest Phil Mustard.
Prince had been the first opener to go, attempting a repeat of his six two balls earlier off Pringle. This time he fetched the ball from a long way outside leg and was caught by Gordon Muchall well in from the long-off boundary.
Steven Croft also got carried away to the senior of the two young spinners – this was Morley’s maiden first-team game of any type – bowled trying to follow up a legside six with another but only pulling at fresh air.
Pringle was Durham’s only wicket-taker in an innings where the bowlers were either very expensive or admirably economical.
Stokes and Chris Rushworth, bowling with the new ball and at the death, went for 24 and 25 respectively off their 24 balls.
One ball Stokes tried to dig in stopped in the pitch for an eternity while Moore backed away, waited for it, then pulled it for four. It was not a surface for Mark Wood, as his 0-40 showed.
With Will Smith opening the bowling Durham had four spinners but leggie Scott Borthwick – a bowler in whom injured Twenty20 captain Benkenstein has great faith – was not thrown the ball.
Neither did Collingwood try himself. Spoilt for choice, the captain perhaps overlooked his bowler best suited to the conditions.
With each of his 39 years Chapple gets closer to Collingwood’s medium pace and he was Lancashire’s most economical and, after New Zealander McClenaghan, most successful bowler.
Durham’s 166-run target looked very gettable when Mark Stoneman was blazing away, but not once he was out.
That was halfway through the sixth over.
Stoneman was almost the hosts’ fourth t20 debutant as he opened in this format for the first time in only his fourth appearance.
He had batted brilliantly for 33 from 17 balls until enthusiasm got the better of him.
He was halfway down the pitch before deciding to turn back, and Croft ran him out. Mustard was bowled trying to whip the next ball to leg.
Between them, the openers hit nine of Durham’s 11 boundaries in the first 14 overs.
For all his power, Stokes struggled initially to clear the ropes, pulling two sixes which once more made a mockery of the pulled-in boundary, but was generally well contained by regular yorkers. When he hit the first of his maximums, Durham’s asking rate climbed beyond 12 an over. Not on that track.
Stokes smote a third over long-on but three balls later followed Muchall to the pavilion after flashing straight to wide mid-off.
Muchall having already upper-cut to Prince on the midwicket boundary, the last thing Durham needed in that situation was two new batsmen again.
Pringle did his best, hitting 13 of the 17 from the 18th over (two more were Tom Smith wides) before picking out Prince at long-off in the 19th.
All the way through Durham were just that little bit short.
An unchanged squad travels to Scarborough to face Yorkshire tomorrow. The Tykes opened their campaign with a two-wicket defeat to Derbyshire.