Stopping Marcus Trescothick on the rampant form he was in yesterday is difficult at the best of times. Doing so with only 40% of your bowling attack is nigh-onimpossible.
Durham’s first defeat of the season was inevitable once the Taunton groundstaff, incredibly, were able to limit the damage of an almighty and potentially game-ending downpour to a mere four hours and three minutes of lost playing time.
Leg-spinner Scott Borthwick had chipped a bone in his right hand – another bone in his right hand, having chipped the finger alongside it a fortnight earlier. That was just bad luck, the slip fielder jarring his finger between ball and ground attempting a low catch.
The injuries to Jamie Harrison and Mark Wood were much more worrying. Harrison was off the field with a bad knee; Wood – perhaps because Durham had no more substitute fielders left – was in the middle but unable to bowl because of a sore side.
It is a worry for two reasons – firstly because of their immense talentand secondly because it keepshappening. England selector Angus Fraser was at Taunton yesterday to watch Wood, but he headed home almost as disappointed as the Durham supporters. If Wood can stay fit for a prolonged period of time he will play Test cricket, it is as simple as that. Harrison can be the quality left-armer Durham have not had since Simon Brown and his batting is improving, as Wood’s will in time.
But Harrison has never played four consecutive Championship games, while Wood’s longest run is just five. Both have had stress fractures, but it is their vulnerability to more minor injuries which is most concerning.
How much is physical, how much psychological is hard to say, but with such a small squad, Durham cannot afford to be carrying injury-prone bowlers.
Graham Onions missed the trip to Somerset with a back injury but the county are hopeful an injection might see him through their next match, which starts at Nottinghamshire on Sunday. Ben Stokes will almost certainly return too, the wrist he broke losing a fight with a metal locker having finally healed.
In the short-term, then, Durham can probably muddle through even if Harrison and Wood are not fit to play at Trent Bridge. Stokes’ return is no more than a sticking plaster, as he will be wearing the Three Lions next month. He may not have the central contract to prove it – something he and Durham deserve – but is effectively now an England player who makes occasional guest appearances for Durham.
The worry is how long it will be before this happens again.
Cricket is not like football. If a player gets injured, it is tough. Their fielding can be replaced, but not their batting or bowling.
“It’s very frustrating,” captain Paul Collingwood admitted. “We’ve only had one game this season where we’ve finished with the same personnel we started it with.
“It’s getting a bit annoying to be honest.
“It would have been nice to have seen Scotty Borthwick bowling on that pitch on the fourth day. I would have loved to have seen the competition, especially with the rough outside off stump, of Borthwick versus Trescothick. That would have been a real battle that would have been worth watching. But you can’t help finger injuries.”
Specifically on Harrison and Wood, he added: “It’s a worry. I don’t quite understand the reason why it’s happening.
“As with last year, we’ve got a crop of inexperienced cricketers who are very talented and exciting when they’re on song, but it does put a lot of workload on the bodies when they’re trying to play at the intensity I’m asking them to play at to try and get results. For young bodies it is a heavy workload. Unfortunately at the minute, they’re not getting through it.”
What made it even harder to take was how brilliant Wood had been in taking 5-37 in the first innings.
“When you’re standing at slip and you see the ball coming at you at pace which is touching 90 (miles per hour) plus and you see the skills he has as well, he’s got unbelievable talent,” marvelled Collingwood.
“I think we all realise when we watch spells like the first innings that he can play international cricket and he’s got the skills to do it on sub-continental pitches when the ball is reverse-swinging because of his skiddy style.
“He just needs a bit of experience in playing in English conditions and I’m sure he’ll get his chance (with England).”
For different reasons you had to feel sorry for Chris Rushworth and Ryan Pringle, the last specialist bowlers standing yesterday.
Not that he will complain, but Rushworth has already bowled 165 overs this season, whereas Pringle had never played First-Class cricket before this week.
He at least now has the scalps of two England internationals – Trescothick and Nick Compton – to his name, but at some considerable cost.
He was one lusty Trescothick blow short of a debut century – of runs conceded in his 17.3 overs. Rushing to a second half-century of only 45 deliveries because he knew the weather that was on the way, Trescothick launched the 22-year-old off-spinner out of the rough and into the seating beyond the cover boundary.
Soon after he lost Johann Myburgh, stood alongside the South African as Pringle had time to recover from his fumble to throw the ball to Rushworth at the non-striker’s end.
Rushworth sent Compton’s middle stump flying from the next delivery, but he had overstepped the crease. Just as Durham were cursing their luck at the no-ball, Somerset were bemoaning theirs even more as the rain came down, incredibly heavily and with the odd rumble of thunder and clap of lightning. Soon there were puddles everywhere.
Trescothick cut the first ball after the long break behind square for four. Collingwood reprieved him on 107, incredibly his third drop of the game, and Compton was lbw before an eventful over was out.
Keaton Jennings also put Alviro Petersen down, an incredibly difficult opportunity diving full stretch at midwicket.
But when James Hildreth slog-swept Pringle it was Somerset’s third six in as many balls. Trescothick had finished the previous over by hitting Rushworth over long-off and midwicket. Earlier he played his most audacious shot, paddling the seamer for another maximum.
When Pringle eventually had the left-hander caught on the long-off boundary, for 133, the job was almost done.
Somerset won with 24.3 overs to spare.