Durham claw back with Stoneman and Jennings fifties before rain sets in...

Durham claw back with Stoneman and Jennings fifties before rain sets in against Surrey

Stumps, Day Two: Durham 156-2 (Stoneman 57, Jennings 53) trail Surrey 457 (Harinath 96) by 301 runs, at the Kia Oval

For around 45 minutes this afternoon, the Kia Oval press box stood still in an eerie silence.

Granted, some of the braver scribblers and scribes had braced the outside facilities, but for the rest, there was a feeling of sedation as Keaton Jennings and Mark Stoneman occupied the crease.

Two batsmen in good form, perhaps harbouring outside England ambitions, enjoying a becalmed Oval track and a skeleton Surrey pace unit, made cricket look all too easy, not quite doing it for the hardy indoor souls tucking into their latest slice of Beckenham cake.

It was all the more surprising then when the opening stand only made 114. Jennings, a player seemingly reborn after his lean 2015, made it once more to 50, but a pre-meditated lap sweep off Zafar Ansari proved his undoing. A century there for the taking was ended 47 short, the visible frustration of his dismissal told you that.

Under the watchful eye of England selector James Whitaker, Stoneman was the next to fall. Gareth Batty had brought himself and Ansari on in tandem after the trio of Tom Curran, Matt Dunn and debutant Mathew Pillans had appeared unthreatening, with the skipper himself trapping Stoneman lbw for 57. A fifth man to go past 50 in the match had failed to convert into three figures.

The press box was now awaken from its slumber, the welcomed murmurings were back, albeit mainly to ask how Jennings had fallen with nobody seemingly paying attention.

But I digress very slightly indeed. In actual fairness, the 114 the openers did make together was sublime. Surrey were hardly able to beat the bat as Stoneman in particular leant into cover drives, straight bullishness and all round goodness.

Jennings too was not at all shabby, taking nine fours on the way to his 89-ball 50, and while South African domestic player Pillans boasted a flickering of pace, the triangulate of fast options was threadbare for Batty, turning to spin by over 22.

It seemed that, following the twin dismissals, we would meander back to tea, but Jack Burnham had other suggestions. A four from just his third ball was bettered by a towering straight six off Ansari, prompting an athletic piece of dodgeball from a pavilion member and a show of disdain to a man set to be England’s third spinner last winter. Burnham would later repeat the dose from the last ball before tea.

He and Scott Borthwick reached the 20s by the time the interval came but, amidst the gloom and threat of rain, that proved it for the day, with Durham still trailing by 301.

I do of course give the day a smattering of injustice. While absent from warmth, the cricket was not lacking entertainment in the early stages as Chris Rushworth leaked 12 from the first of the morning as Surrey pushed for maximum batting points.

Ben Foakes, who reached 38 before nicking off to Brydon Carse, and Batty ensured they were to make it, a minimum requirement from their strong position on Day One, before Batty and Pillans ensured Durham were to be one short of full bowling points.

That wasn’t for the trying of Ben Stokes though, who bowled unchanged from the Pavilion End all morning, 68 balls by my maths, eventually getting one through Batty for his fourth wicket. While 457 is not to be sniffed at for Surrey, it was a frustrating morning for both teams, Stokes’ in particular culminated when Batty hooked him for a clean six.

Stokes will be back tomorrow, likely with bat in hand should adverse weather resist. Perhaps a few meaty blows will absolve any worries.


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