As the last hour of play unfurled at Chester-le-Street, a statement from Durham’s chief executive David Harker arrived at the desks of the assembled media.
It told of ‘a positive dialogue’ with the ECB concerning the club’s ongoing financial strife. The statement of two stanzas comes partly in response to Michael Atherton’s column in the Times on Monday morning, suggesting that the county could be the first of the 18 that goes under. With Mark Knopfler’s childhood home no further away than long-on, Durham are in dire straits.
On a serene day in the North-East, the rickety financial foundations of a creaking system swum into the collective ken with none of the grace of a Borthwick glance and all the sobriety of a Hameed block.
In the morning session, Paul Collingwood fell three short of his second successive century and Durham were bowled out for 411. Lancashire will be happy to close on 205-4 after going 21-2 down just after lunch, having embarked on a fightback led by an accomplished 61 from Alviro Petersen and Haseeb Hameed’s four-hour innings of 74.
Although Lancashire were able to see out an awkward twenty minutes before lunch having bowled Durham out, James Weighell did the damage after the interval with two quick counter-punches to put the visitors on the ropes and sway the game.
Weighell, 22, is de jure a Yorkshire lad, his being born in Middlesbrough, but his cricketing growth has been rooted in Northumberland having turned out for the Minor County since 2012. The medium-pacer, who flirts with medium-fast in his more urgent moments, bustles in; upright, feet skimming the ground, arms pumping pronouncedly at his sides.
The Red Rose lost one of their Bolton bull-terriers to Weighell, as Karl Brown, who struggled to mine nine from 40 balls, nibbled at one outside off and nicked to Ryan Pringle at third. Early that over, fellow opener Haseeb Hameed had survived a high appeal for his wicket as well.
Then the bowler proactively decided to change angle to left-hander Luke Proctor and this allowed him to tempt the new batsman into a loose shot, offering another catch to Pringle who dived forward to make it 21-2.
Weighell’s high left arm at point of delivery mimics that of his opening partner, Graham Onions, who bowled with particularly parsimony all afternoon. The youngster’s ability to trust a Chester-le-Street surface that holds promise of reward for good bowling will no doubt have also been augmented by a winter spent playing in Victoria.
As the opening pair finished their spells, the change bowlers came on which allowed experienced campaign Alviro Petersen the chance to settle at the crease, and settle he did. Petersen took a particular liking to the bowling of Brydon Carse, whom he deposited for off-side boundaries either side of square on the first and last balls of Carse’s third over.
Even Hameed, that great wall of Bolton, took the liberty of opening his stance to crash Carse through the covers and progress into the thirties before the pair brought up their fifty partnership.
With the sun out and the pitch flattening, Scott Borthwick came into the attack off whose short-pitched delivery Petersen hooked to bring up his own half-century. Although the afternoon session sauntered along at the pace of a retired couple skirting Lumley Castle, it saw the game decidedly shift back into a Lancastrian grasp.
On 61 after tea, Petersen tried to work Graham Onions into leg, missed his shot and was trapped leg before. To Onions’ credit, he constructed a fine tactical over, combining the best of short and full lengths to put paid to the South African and end a stand worth 104 obdurate runs.
Captain Croft came in and Hameed progressed to 50 serenely although he couldn’t translate another characterful innings into a ton when he was beaten by Scott Borthwick’s enterprisingly quicker delivery.
Speaking at the end of a first day won by the home side, first innings centurion Borthwick moved to allay fears about the length of Durham’s tail with the loss of Ben Stokes to England duty.
The first hour was a challenging one for the hosts, however, who could only add 35 runs for the loss of three wickets before midday. In fact, they hadn’t added to their overnight total when Weighell failed to get his head over the ball and shouldered a good length delivery from Tom Bailey to gully.
Kyle Jarvis at 6’2 forms a loping line of attack with Bailey and the Zimbabwean’s bounce caught Brydon Carse out, who was too slow onto his back foot and gave Liam Livingstone his fourth catch of the innings at slip.
Paul Collingwood was still at the other end approaching his century when his firm drive was cut off at the boundary rope, but these runs took Durham to their fourth batting point and to 350.
Bubbly Irishman Barry McCarthy rode his luck early on, edging two of Jarvis’ better balls through the slip cordon. The 23 year-old was undeterred, pulling Neil Wagner for four in front of square, which lead to several rollicking bouncers from the New Zealander whose snarling demeanor on the field has turned heads across both days of this game.
Collingwood stuck to his usual game but was hustled out just short of three figures when he slashed across a straight-ish one from Jarvis to offer a catch for Karl Brown at gully. This saw Lancashire earn their final bowling point in the last over it remained available.
McCarthy, as if essaying to complete his fallen skipper’s hundred in style, deposited Bailey over long-on for six before smiting another maximum. He holed out on 37, his highest-ever first-class score in his third appearance for the county.