Durham’s stand-ins stand out

Friday was the day of the stand-ins at Chester-le-Street.

England batsman Kevin Pietersen is caught behind by wicket keeper Brad Haddin

Four umpires stood in one day’s County Championship cricket, but it was not just the men in white coats who looked unfamiliar.

Local umpire Phil Raine was fished out of the crowd for a couple of hours until Paul Baldwin arrived to replace Mark Benson, called away by a family emergency. But while Raine could stay largely out of the firing line at square leg as Michael Gough did a double shift at both bowlers’ ends, Durham’s young seamers were thrown in at the deep end.

They responded well.

Rarely in recent seasons has Durham’s squad looked so shallow on paper, yet so deep on grass.

The Riversiders’ 421 was their highest Chester-le-Street score for two years and with Graham Onions, Ben Stokes and Callum Thorp missing, you might have assumed they needed it.

Durham’s 2013 has been a story of losing key personnel, and making light of it.

Conditions were more overcast than those Surrey bowled in – although it was farcical the entire last session was wiped out by supposedly bad light – but the hosts showed up more experienced visitors.

Jamie Harrison nipped the ball in, Mark Wood surprised Hashim Amla for pace and Usman Arshad bowled with discipline.

Fate threw Arshad and Durham together when, as an under-16, he was asked to make up the numbers on Saltaire Under-15s’ two-week tour of Dubai. They stayed in the same hotel as Riversiders’ coach Geoff Cook and the rest is history.

Before bowling Arshad showed character with the bat as England’s heavily-tattooed white-ball international Jade Dernbach tried unsuccessfully to intimidate him.

Arshad’s first scoring shot in first-team cricket – guided wide of the slips for four – took Durham to four batting points. They went on to be the first team past 400 on this ground since June 23, 2011.

Arshad could have been run out on six, turning and slipping on the lusher grass of the uncut adjacent pitch.

It was reminiscent of Michael Atherton on 99 at Lord’s but, too young to remember that, the 20-year-old panicked about “doing a Samit Patel” and repeating the Nottinghamshire all-rounder’s comedy run-out this year as he sprinted to safety just ahead of Arun Harinath’s direct hit from the boundary.

In the end low bounce did for him, the seventh of Chris Tremlett’s career-best eight victims.

Thrown the ball after Zander de Bruyn and Steven Davies more than doubled Surrey’s score from 36-4, Arshad bustled in and was on the spot straight away. Surrey survived his first over, but not his second. Ball two was chopped on by the premature De Bruyn, and Gary Wilson edged number six into Phil Mustard’s gloves.

Surprisingly given the new ball ahead of Mark Wood on his return to the first-team after 14 months, left-armer Harrison nipped the ball back in to have Rory Burns caught and Vikram Solanki lbw. In between time Michael Richardson’s good slip catch gave Chris Rushworth a wicket.

Made to bide his time until the 13th over, Wood shocked Amla. Perhaps expecting something more gentle – though Wood’s charge to the crease should have been a clue – by the time Amla saw the ball his stumps had splattered. It identified the all-rounder as Durham’s “maverick x-factor” bowler, to use two Collingwoodisms, in Stokes’ absence.

Durham’s innings was unremarkable and invaluable.

Tremlett got a couple to rear up off a length to remove nightwatchman Harrison and Wood, and Mustard ran out of partners before he could make his fifth Championship 50 this season.

With Middlesex following Sussex as the second title contender beaten by Lazarus-like Derbyshire and Yorkshire winning, next week’s match at Scarborough looks a massive one if Durham can close out victory here. The weather would seem to have more chance of stopping them than sorry Surrey.

For Bradford-born Arshad, never able to get beyond Yorkshire’s age-group B teams, next week could be extra special.

Meanwhile, Derbyshire will be deducted two points in next season’s revamped 50-over competition for a “poor” pitch against Durham in this month’s YB40 game. Derbyshire won by 107 runs.

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