Bowling at Chester-le-Street is an art.
Middlesex’s attack – with the honourable exception of Toby Roland-Jones who took 5-103 yesterday – have not quite grasped it but in John Hastings Durham have a willing learner.
The Australian fast bowler has been desperate to play for the Riversiders this season, spending his time on the fringes of the Indian Premier League manically tweeting good luck messages and watching every internet highlight he could lay his hands on. More importantly, he has been honing his skills.
Durham coach Jon Lewis sent a box of red Duke balls – different to the Kookaburas used in Australian first-class cricket – to India for him.
Hastings revealed: “Most of the guys were bowling three or four overs in the nets, but I was doing ten or 12 in the heat.
“My net sessions were going for three hours instead of two.
“I probably only had two or three sessions with the Duke ball. It didn’t swing as much in the overhead conditions.”
Hastings was also quickly taught the lesson Middlesex failed to heed about the fuller length needed at Chester-le-Street.
He added: “That’s definitely something we spoke about.
“I had a good chat to (former Durham bowler) Mickey Lewis, our bowling coach at Victoria, as well.
“In Australia we bang away back of a length so it’s going to be a challenge to get it a bit fuller, trying to get nicks. It will mean me getting a fraction, maybe just a yard, fuller.”
Hastings needed just seven deliveries to take a wicket and it was the one he and his team-mates wanted most, ducking one in for compatriot Chris Rogers to play on to middle stump. Even in the previous over he had bowled a better length than modesty let him to acknowledge.
It has been a tough season for Durham’s bowlers on flat pitches. Incredibly, we have reached June without them having taken 20 wickets in a match.
Yet in typical Chester-le-Street conditions they are still formidable.
Yesterday those conditions arrived. The blue skies of Sunday were replaced by grey as the clouds threatened without delivering until wiping out all but five balls of the final session.
It would be easy to feel sympathy for Middlesex, had Rogers not won the toss on sunny Sunday.
Scott Borthwick’s magnificent 216 may therefore not be in vain, although rain could still rescue Middlesex.
Yesterday was reminiscent of Somerset’s visit in April. Then, the visitors bowled poorly only to be shown how it was done.
Mark Wood is a short, slingy fast bowler who, for the first two years of his career, only got to play away from home. However, he demonstrated to England selector Angus Fraser, Middlesex’s director of coaching, he can swing the ball too. If Fraser was half as impressed as Hastings, Wood left a good impression.
The 24-year-old had already beaten the bat twice before striking with the last delivery of his opening over.
He swung it away from Sam Robson and found the edge. Phil Mustard took the catch.
Wood swung one into the left-handed Dawid Malan from his next over. The ball rocketed to third slip, where Michael Richardson took the first of two excellent catches. His next take was even better, low to the ground as Neil Dexter flashed at Ben Stokes. Chris Rushworth was unlucky – again – finding Malan’s edge on three. Whether it carried to Gordon Muchall was unclear, but the ball went to ground.
Hastings had impressed with the bat but the morning was Borthwick’s.
He hit the first double century by a Durham player since Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the final game of 2009 and the first here for Durham by an Englishman. He was nervous in the 190s, the last ten runs seeming to take almost as long as Chanderpaul’s New Road blockathon when in fact it was only 22 deliveries.
A yes-no with Paul Collingwood on 197 was not costly, nor his swipe at Ravi Patel’s next ball.
An edge wide of the solitary slip brought the landmark up.
Borthwick removed his helmet and swished his bat so hard it nearly lifted him off his feet. By then, Durham were in a hurry.
Nightwatchman Wood was angry at himself for missing out on the fun when he pulled to midwicket.
Collingwood’s cameo featured good shots – not least a six pulled off Steven Finn and a lovely straight four – and ugly ones, like the boundary mown square of the wicket.
Collingwood went the same way Borthwick would, spooning a mistimed shot. In between time Muchall was lbw for one.
That he was asked to bat at eight six days after his 158 not out against Peter Siddle and Stuart Broad was a joke. Durham exploit his good nature.
Hastings played a few fresh air shots in 38 not out from 25 deliveries but when the 6ft 5in bowler connected, the ball stayed hit.
His first six went into the health centre car park, his next was slog-swept in the same direction.