Mark Stoneman must lead Durham to safety

The responsibility will be on Mark Stoneman today to keep a clear head and shepherd Durham CCC to a position of safety

Nigel Roddis/Getty Images Mark Stoneman of Durham
Mark Stoneman of Durham

The task facing Durham today is obvious, and having seen Yorkshire post the third-highest score of all time at their Chester-le-Street home without too many alarms it should be straightforward.

Life, though, is not like that. To match opponents who scored two centuries and came very close to two more, Durham’s batsmen must post the big scores which have eluded them so far in 2014.

On the brink of his first 50 this season, Mark Stoneman will have to lead the way.

With Scott Borthwick batting with a damaged finger and Kumar Sangakkara’s last innings in a Twenty20 final in Bangladesh, the man being groomed as his county’s next leader cannot leave the responsibility to anyone else.

Three hundred and seventy-eight more are needed just to avoid the follow-on. Rather than reassuring the home batsmen, the big numbers on the scoreboard will turn the screw.

“We’re going to need big individual totals to eke our way up towards that,” reasoned Stoneman, who made 48 of Durham’s 62-1 before bad light stopped play.

“It’s just about trying to keep as clear a mind as possible. Playing the ball on its merits is a massive thing.

“In this situation you can’t go into your shell. You have to take the opportunity to put a little bit of pressure back on the bowlers.”

Yorkshire will resume with an intensity lacking at times yesterday and Durham will have to match it.

Early in the moribund second session Paul Collingwood decided discretion was the better part of valour and for 27 overs kept his frontline bowlers hidden. As soon as they came back, three wickets fell for one run in four deliveries.

The responsibility lay with Yorkshire to force the pace and the time taken out of the game will help Durham – but it was unedifying. By nipping the ball around Collingwood showed what might have been with a bit more Durham application. That his 14 overs went unrewarded was down to sloppiness.

Adil Rashid shovelled bottom-handed to Stoneman at midwicket. A routine chance went begging. The catch Borthwick dropped off Collingwood – with Andrew Gale on 92 – at a wide slip was much more difficult.

Though he denied it was down to concentration, it would have been understandable. Having never bowled before in the County Championship – he had two overs as the warm-up game against Durham University meandered to a draw – Stoneman was in the middle of a long spell. In all, he bowled 20 overs of off-spin.

That even he was called for a no-ball for overstepping the crease pointed to befuddled minds as Durham conceded 50 extras. Technically Stoneman had a chance off his bowling – he thought so, but the way Jonny Bairstow hammered the ball on 92 trying to catch it was perhaps not the wisest move.

The commitment was good to see, though. So was Sangakkara racing and diving around the boundary on 549-5. Generally, things went a little flat after lunch.

It was curious Yorkshire, with a batting line-up featuring the in-form Liam Plunkett at nine, did not try to take more advantage.

The middle session was all the more disappointing for the way those either side of it started.

Yorkshire began the day needing 51 in 14 overs for four batting points, and got them with more than six overs to spare, scoring 152 in 30 wicketless overs before lunch.

That Gale and Bairstow scored squarer than Yorkshire’s runs came on day one demonstrated whereas Durham erred too often in line on day one, lengths were an issue yesterday.

It took a shocking decision by Jeremy Lloyds to remove Bairstow as he threatened to be Yorkshire’s third centurion. He was a long way down the pitch when Chris Rushworth (pictured left) hit his thigh but still given lbw.

The television cameras have done the umpires few favours here.

There was a change of gear after tea. Durham started with Stoneman, but when his over cost 12 took the overdue third new ball. Rashid smashed it for six over long-on – only to be caught on the boundary trying to upper-cut the next delivery, a slower-ball bouncer.

Onions nipped the ball away from Tim Bresnan and Plunkett lbw. Before he could run in for his hat-trick, Yorkshire handed over to their bowlers.

The ball did a little for them, Ryan Sidebottom finding Keaton Jennings’ edge with a beauty and third slip Kane Williamson only able to get a fingertip to Stoneman’s edge – a reprieve he must make the most of.

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