It was on Friday night that interim coach Jon Lewis talked about the need for “a bit of magic” from Durham’s bowlers, so perhaps bringing Mitchell Claydon back in from the cold should not have been such a surprise after all.
The amateur conjuror certainly did the trick yesterday. It has been a strange 48 hours for him.
On Monday morning he was on loan at Kent, who yesterday confirmed he will join permanently for 2014. In between time, after 550 miles’ driving, he resumed a Durham career which looked dead and buried and, following this season’s script, delivered immediately.
His breezy 18 not out stabilised a subsiding innings, and he needed just two deliveries to take a wicket.
The ball swung throughout a humid day, but whereas Graham Onions had to wait for his reward and the even more impressive Chris Rushworth’s did not come at all, Claydon’s was instant.
With four Division Two wickets at 56.5, Durham’s absentees rather than his own form have forced Claydon back but seemingly just about everyone pressed into action this year has pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
Joe Gatting shouldered arms, the ball kept low and off-stump cartwheeled. Three balls later nightwatchman James Anyon’s edge dropped short.
“I was driving to Cardiff to play golf, got the call and I didn’t have a car so I had to get Ben Harmison to drive mine down. When he arrived I came back up,” said Claydon.
“I went into the drawers after getting back at one in the morning and I only had one training top left because I’d handed the rest out.
“I thought I’d played my last game but this is a great way to come back. If I can make an impact in the last four games and help the club win the Championship there’s no better way to sign off really.” After much playing and missing in the opening half-hour of Sussex’s reply – and a leaping Phil Mustard dropping Luke Wells – Onions struck twice four deliveries apart, Chris Nash edging to slip and Michael Yardy lbw playing around a full ball.
Sussex’s 60-3 looked off the pace after Mark Stoneman’s masterful 96.
After starting like a house on fire, being dropped on 44 by Harry Finch seemed to restrain him but there was no disguising his class.
Stoneman again shrugged off the early loss of Keaton Jennings, lbw driving without footwork. Even before that a cover drive to get off the mark signposted an attractive innings. It was substantial too.
Debutant Finch’s drop was incredible not only for its simplicity but the lack of team-mate reaction. He made up for it with a brilliant catch off Lewis Hatchett to remove Mustard.
Stoneman’s first 44 came off 45 deliveries, his next 51 off 84.
Sussex were bowling well. County-watchers expect it of Steven Magoffin, but Hatchett had played two previous Championship games this season without a wicket. He was outstanding in a spell of 3-7 in 3.1 overs.His first wicket swung in full for Stoneman to chop on. Collingwood was late on another inswinger.
When Michael Richardson was lbw to an Anyon delivery which seemed to be doing too much, Durham’s soft underbelly was exposed with three wickets for two runs.
Claydon stopped the rot with a guide through mid-off and a checked drive before Onions mistimed a pull.That denied them a second batting point but Claydon’s wicket put Durham 3.5 behind leaders Yorkshire with another 18 to play for here.