Durham batsmen frustrate Yorkshire on attritional day
Stumps Durham 326 for 9 (Plunkett 65*, Onions 6*, Pyrah 3-70) v Yorkshire
Yorkshire struggled at either end of their first home match of the County Championship season, with Division One rivals Durham making a competitive 326 for 9 after winning the toss. The visitors at one stage dipped to 134 for 6 after enjoying a 106-run opening stand between Michael Di Venuto and Will Smith but Yorkshire were held up again by fighting half-centuries from debutant Michael Richardson and tail-ender Liam Plunkett.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Richardson, the son of ICC general manager and former South Africa wicketkeeper, Dave Richardson, only came into the side at the last minute as a replacement for captain Phil Mustard, who was denied his 100th consecutive Championship match for Durham by a sore toe.
Coming in at a shaky 123 for 5, Richardson batted with great composure and was never afraid to go for his shots, striking 10 fours and a six before being eighth out at 223 guiding Richard Pyrah to Anthony McGrath at second slip. With McGrath returning after injury, Yorkshire decided to drop opener Joe Sayers, while Durham were without Mark Stoneman and Steve Harmison, who suffered fractures in their team's opening encounter with Hampshire at Southampton.
But the good news for Durham was that fast bowler Graham Onions was pronounced fully recovered from the back injury which had kept him out of first-class cricket since England's Test match against South Africa at Cape Town in January 2010. Durham bossed most of the morning session in dull conditions as Smith, back in an opening role again, gave solid support to Di Venuto, who was in splendid form, punishing anything short with some splendidly-timed strokes through the off side.
Ryan Sidebottom was cut or driven through the covers on several occasions and neither Steve Patterson nor Moin Ashraf were any more effective on a pitch which offered little help in the early stages. Di Venuto completed his half-century off 57 balls with nine fours and at 82 for none in 18 overs Yorkshire were forced to turn to Pyrah and leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
The pair managed to stifle the scoring and it was Pyrah who improved Yorkshire's situation shortly before lunch with two wickets in three balls. He first trapped Di Venuto lbw for 74 before having Gordon Muchall taken in the slips by Adam Lyth.
Yorkshire continued to tighten their grip in the afternoon as Patterson's direct hit from mid-on ran out Smith (37) and Sidebottom sent back acting captain Dale Benkenstein lbw without scoring. Ian Blackwell drove at Sidebottom without using his feet and was comprehensively bowled and when Ben Stokes fell lbw to a swinging ball from Ashraf, Durham were 134 for 6.
Richardson was looking confident and struck Rashid for three consecutive fours and pulled Sidebottom for six before going to his half-century off 55 balls. Scott Borthwick had contributed 13 to a patient seventh-wicket stand of 63 in 15 overs when he was caught behind by Jonathan Bairstow off Sidebottom - their respective fathers David and Arnie having completed the last of many similar dismissals 22 years ago.
Richardson began to fade in the 60s, surviving a run-out opportunity and mishooking Pyrah between two fielders, and his eventual dismissal to the same bowler seemed to spell the end of Durham's resistance. But then Plunkett and Callum Thorp came together in a record Durham ninth-wicket stand against Yorkshire which exceeded the 86 between Chris Scott and David Graveney in 1992.
Plunkett, striking the ball powerfully, reached his 50 off 100 deliveries. A third batting bonus was safely secured and the partnership had advanced to 94 in 20 overs when Thorp was held on the square-leg boundary by Gerard Brophy for 41 off the bowling of Rashid. By stumps, Plunkett had moved on to 65, hitting eight boundaries off the 122 balls he had received.