Stumps, Day Three: Durham 190 and 154-4 (Jennings 80*; Wright 4-35) need another 84 runs to beat Warwickshire 313 and 113 (Weighell 5-33)
In another fascinating day of excellent, closely contested cricket at Edgbaston, this Specsavers County Championship encounter between Warwickshire and Durham offered almost as many twists and turns as a le Carre spy thriller.
Durham are just about favourites to win, needing another 84 runs with 6 wickets in hand. But on a pitch with variable bounce, the result is by no means a foregone conclusion. We should be in for a fascinating hour or so tomorrow.
A morning collapse saw Warwickshire throw away their strong overnight position. They were bowled out for 114 with young pace bowler James Weighell taking a career best 5-33.
This left Durham needing 238 to win. They soon slipped from 67-0 to 105-4 however as Chris Wright took four wickets for just 15 runs in a post-tea burst. Keaton Jennings and Paul Collingwood, in a stand of 67, gave the match a further tweak and left Durham in a slightly better position.
At close of play, both Jennings of Durham and Wright of Warwickshire agreed that the match was still delicately poised. Wright suggested that there might be enough rough on the pitch to help the spinners on the final day. He also accepted that, having taken all four wickets to fall so far in the Durham second innings, theoretically at least, he still had a chance to beat Chris Woakes’ nine wicket first innings haul.
The day had begun with the home side on 15-2, 138 ahead. Woakes, who yesterday took 9-36, the best bowling figures for Warwickshire in over half a century, had departed to report for England duty. He was replaced by leg-spinner Josh Poysden.
Early on, Andy Umeed got a lifter from Weighell and edged it to be caught behind for seven. Ian Bell began with imperiously driven off-side boundaries off both Weighell and Graham Onions before, on 15, Weighell pinned him in front with a yorker to leave the Bears on a precarious 46-4.
Varun Chopra and Jonathan Trott set about repairing the damage. Both played some firm shots as well as dealing with the odd variation in bounce. Just as they seemed to be getting on top, Barry McCarthy beat Chopra and won a delayed lbw decision.
Sam Hain, in desperate need of First Class runs, started slowly and then played an ugly shot, edging the returning Weighell onto his stumps to depart for just six. The Anglo-Australian wunderkind has scored just 73 runs in eight First Class innings so far this season. Trott soon followed, fishing at Carse and being caught in the slips by Paul Collingwood.
Tim Ambrose, having endured fifteen scoreless and uncomfortable deliveries, edged onto his pads to be caught at short leg by Mark Stoneman. And so Durham went into a well-deserved lunch with the Bears on 101-8 having lost six wickets for 86 runs in the session. 20 wickets had now fallen in the previous four sessions but, in all honesty, you could hardly blame the pitch for most of those dismissals. Credit was due to the bowlers, Weighell in particular, but much of the batting was ordinary at best.
After lunch, Keith Barker managed a hasty jab at a good length ball from Onions and was well caught at second slip by Scott Borthwick. When Oliver Hannon-Dalby sought to hit Weighell extravagantly to leg and skied to wide mid-on, Warwickshire were all out for 114 in just 37.5 overs. The admirable Weighell finished with a career best 5-33 and match figures of 9-130.
With a target of 238 to win and 60 overs left in the day, Durham began steadily. Both Stoneman and Jennings sought to counter the swing of Barker, so often their nemesis in recent seasons, by taking their stance well outside the batting crease.
They both needed some luck to survive the opening bursts from Barker and Wright. When Jeetan Patel came on, he commanded respect, though without much sign of turn from the pitch. Jennings reverse swept him for four, though it was difficult to know if this was a sign of confidence or desperation.
Poysden came on and, like Patel, bowled accurately but without much turn – more Eric Hollies than Shane Warne. By tea, the Durham openers had reached 67-0 off 28 overs. The Northern county were just 171 short of pulling off a win.
After tea, Wright achieved a quadruple strike. First, Stoneman tried to hit a straight ball to leg and was lbw for 23. Borthwick never settled so it was no surprise when Wright brought a ball back into him that also kept slightly low and bowled him for 4.
Almost immediately, Jack Burnham got a devil of a delivery that lifted and left him, to be well caught low down in the slips by Umeed. Once again in this match, wickets were falling in clusters. Mark Richardson fared no better.
Offered a juicy leg stump half volley, he managed to hit it straight to Patel at square leg. Durham were now 87-4. In his six over post-tea burst, Wright took 4-15.
Through it all, Jennings battled on and reached his fifty off 120 balls with eight fours. Collingwood gave him good support. Warwickshire’s problem was that, with no turn in the pitch, Patel was playing mainly a containing role and seldom threatened to take wickets.
Also, whilst he bowled a steady spell before tea, the decision to bring in leg-spinner Poysden to replace Woakes seemed to have backfired. To be fair, with both Boyd Rankin and Rikki Clarke unavailable, the Bears’ options were limited.
A late edge by Jennings off Patel that flew past Trott at first slip might well prove a crucial moment. The absent Clarke might well have caught it with his prehensile left hand. In any event, Jennings ended with an excellent 88 not out from 184 deliveries and Collingwood too was still there on 26, giving Durham a clear but slight edge going into the final day.