Scott Borthwick makes history on a washout of a day for Durham

Yesterday saw a milestone in the first-class life of Durham County Cricket Club hidden among turgid, rain-hit cricket

Scott Borthwick of Durham CCC
Scott Borthwick of Durham CCC

Not much about the abbreviated third day between Derbyshire and Durham will live long in the memory, yet Scott Borthwick wrote his name into his county’s history books during it.

It is a pity what promises to be an exciting climax at both ends of this season’s County Championship seems to be taking place just as the weather has turned for the worst.

It would be a surprise if the Riversiders were able to equal another club record by winning a fourth straight Championship win with the midway point in terms of innings still to be reached.

Even without a victory to celebrate this evening, though, they will still have an important landmark to toast.

When he guided the ball behind square for two in the 40th over, Borthwick became only the 18th man to score 1,000 first-class runs in a season for Durham.

Championship runs rather than simply first-class are the better measure of batting prowess in these days of distinctly second-rate friendlies but with only 45 needed, it would be a massive surprise if he did not get there.

Irrespective of that, it was some achievement in the context of Borthwick’s (right) career.

He has never before managed half that in a season (480 in 2011 was his previous best) and started the campaign with only 1,198 in total for Durham.

Borthwick said: “I’m really happy with that.

“If someone had said at the start of the year I was going to get 1,000 first-class runs I’d have snapped their hands off.

“To do it in the Championship would be nice as well.”

Almost all Borthwick’s previous runs came at No.8 where flashy cameos are often more important than substantial innings – but batting at three, often coming out to face a very new ball, is no piece of cake either.

Rarely in their 21-year first-class history have Durham had a reliable performer there.

When it comes to scoring runs anywhere, the Riversiders have often had to look beyond their boundaries.

Paul Collingwood in 2005 was the last locally-born batsman to reach the mark and will be delighted to see his record go to another Wearsider.

Collingwood must take some of the credit, too. Although even Borthwick is unsure who was behind the decision, his captain has shown great faith in his batting – if not always his leg-spin bowling – by moving him up the order.

Head coach Geoff Cook – another committed supporter of the 23-year-old – argued recently that without his promotion it would have been hard to justify Borthwick’s continued selection. There have certainly been times in the last two years with Borthwick playing as a second spinner at seamer-friendly Chester-le-Street when cold cricketing logic would have told you the youngster should not have been on the team-sheet.

However, under Cook’s leadership Durham have always been as concerned with the long-term development of North East cricketers than short-term results.

Borthwick’s innings was not one which will live long in the memory, though the manner of his dismissal with a fourth century of the season begging might come back to him in the middle of the night.

Resuming yesterday morning 21 not out, he ushered Durham past 100 with a cut for four and a straight drive for three, but he and Will Smith largely left the attacking shots to one side in their 159-run partnership.

Between them they made 180 off 409 deliveries.

The pitch was as slow as the cricket and while the playing-and-missing largely died away after the opening hour, it was not replaced by any flurry of runs. Just 175 were scored in 74.1 overs before bad light, then rain, stopped play shortly after tea.

He could have been run out on 69, but Paul Borrington missed the stumps from gully.

Having batted so doggedly for over four hours – he and Smith scored 13 in the first 11 overs after lunch – he needed just 11 more for a century when he pulled a full toss from his former Durham team-mate Shivnarine Chanderpaul to mid-on.

Borthwick admitted: “It was a massive full toss and I managed to hit it straight to mid-on.

“It was disappointing because I thought Smudge (Smith) and I batted well.”

Smith made it to the second new ball, which Derbyshire could not use as well as their guests had, but also went in the 80s.

He tried too late to take the bat away from a Mark Footitt delivery and was caught in the slips.

Fifty-nine behind at tea and with their prospects of forcing a victory slim even before the early finish, the emphasis must be on bonus points for what is left of Durham’s innings.

They have four already from the contest and need another 43 runs in 15.5 overs to get a fifth. It would also give them a first-innings lead.

Fifty more would be better still, but highly unlikely on the evidence of the first three days.

Still, Collingwood – who reached his own milestone – with his 13,000th first-cass run and the rest should enjoy trying.

Second-placed Yorkshire have picked up six points against Sussex and could yet force victory but that – like so much at this time of the season – may hang on the weather.

Each day of next week’s home match against Nottinghamshire will start at 10.15am. The extra 15 minutes per day are to allow the last to finish an hour earlier. The visitors play Glamorgan in the YB40 final at Lord’s on Saturday.

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