Muchall and Blackwell punish Worcestershire
Durham 360 for 4 v Worcestershire
Centuries by Gordon Muchall and Ian Blackwell revitalised Durham on a protracted opening day in the County Championship meeting with Worcestershire at New Road.
A late start, two interruptions for rain and a sluggish over-rate stretched the proceedings beyond normal limits, and when time was finally called at 7.53pm, Durham had recovered to make 360 for 4.
At one stage, with the ball seaming around just enough to make batting difficult, they were struggling at 44 for 3. However, Muchall's resolute hundred - his first of the summer - gave them a base to work from.
Anchoring the innings from the ninth over, he made 152 not out and Blackwell, with his more robust methods, closed with 130 to his name. Together they reshaped the contest in an ongoing partnership of 242, a new fifth-wicket record for the county.
The match did not begin until midday because Worcestershire were involved in a day-night game against Middlesex at Lord's on Tuesday. It was almost 1am when they got back home and yet they were quickest out of the blocks as Damien Wright and Alan Richardson added to their standing as the most successful new-ball pair in the championship.
Late movement accounted for Michael Di Venuto and Will Smith in the space of seven balls, and with the openers both taken in the slips, Wright and Richardson reached 50 wickets between them in Division One.
This represents a considerable achievement for two bowlers who are in their mid-30s and committed to a heavy workload for a side who have lost all five matches in the championship since winning promotion last September.
It was symptomatic of their season that Durham were able to regroup after the confusion which led to a cheap dismissal for Ben Stokes. Muchall set off for a second run after playing the ball past cover, but Stokes turned back and was the one who had to go when the two batsmen arrived together at the striker's end.
The decision ultimately worked out in Durham's favour as Muchall went past 50 before hitting a sticky patch in which he was dropped at slip off Richard Jones and then survived a run-out chance on 74.
At 83 he completed 6,000 first-class career runs and, strangely, while some of his earlier fluency faded before he reached his hundred from 170 balls, his ratio of boundaries increased. Muchall's half-century contained only five fours but he hit nine in his second 50.
Dale Benkenstein (33) was first to support him, putting on 74 until he was caught at first slip off Gareth Andrew, and Blackwell carried on from there with 14 fours from 111 balls in his third century of the season. He gave one chance from a top edge off Andrew when he was on 77.