Collingwood comes good for Durham
Surrey 129 (Rushworth 3-36, Stokes 4-40) and 69 for 5
(Stokes 2-18) trail Durham 310 (Benkenstein 69, Collingwood 78,
Mustard 46; Dernbach 3-88) by 112 runs
There are few more determined cricketers than Paul Collingwood and he is now utilising the desire and experience that once helped England to spearhead Durham's unexpected rally to avoid relegation. Apparently marooned at the foot of Division One when he took over as captain last month, his best score of the summer has put them in sight of a second successive victory.
After representing England in 68 Test matches, 197 one-day internationals and having led them to the World Twenty20 triumph in Barbados two years ago, Collingwood was the obvious candidate to approach when Phil Mustard stepped down at the mid-way point of the summer. They had lost four of their first eight championship matches and looked like a side preparing for next summer in Division Two.
This is Collingwood's third match as captain, during which time Durham have narrowly lost against Sussex at Arundel, secured their first championship win of the season over Middlesex and are closing in on an emphatic win over Surrey, one of their relegation rivals. It has been a staggering turnaround in fortunes, even for a player used to confounding expectations during his international career.
"The spirit has been excellent over the last few weeks, they guys are ready for the challenge and we know it's going to be a hard end to the season," Collingwood said. "We have to get ourselves off the bottom of the table, but in many ways it's an exciting time because it is a good challenge and we believe we can do it."
Durham were indebted to Collingwood's know how, in tandem with the equally experienced Dale Benkenstein, which ensured they wore Surrey down and instead of contemplating a narrow advantage, stretched it into a commanding 181-run first innings lead. Both players scored half-centuries during their 132-run stand, with Collingwood scoring 78 while Benkenstein's 69 was his first time past 50 this summer, but equally importantly it provided confidence within the dressing room that it was possible to score runs on a pitch that claimed 14 wickets on the opening day.
That was underlined with Mustard and Callum Thorp adding an equally valuable 72 for the eighth wicket, although not without controversy. Mustard was given lbw when Zander de Bruyn angled the ball into his pads but Jeff Evans, the umpire, changed his mind after consulting with colleague Michael Gough after concluding he had got an inside edge.
Surrey's irritation rose significantly and although Mustard only added three more runs to his total before falling lbw to Jon Lewis, it was an illustration of a difficult day in the field after their gamble to bat first on the opening day backfired spectacularly. Jason Roy, possibly still seething after his run out in the first innings, illustrated that frustration by questioning the decision to give him lbw shortly before the close.
"I think Jason thought he'd hit the ball and we thought the two noises were two pads, but we don't have the DRS and all that sort of stuff in county cricket so hopefully we won't get too nit-picky about umpire's decisions," Collingwood said. "They tend to equal themselves out during the season." That may be of little comfort to Surrey, who should be expecting Roy to receive disciplinary action for his reaction.
Of greater concern to Chris Adams, Surrey's director of cricket, may be how Surrey struggled to develop a partnership similar to that established by Collingwood and Benkenstein. They are lacking anyone with that experience in their top order, but from the moment Zafar Ansari, their young opener, flashed a wide delivery from Graham Onions straight to Durham's captain at slip, it was a struggle.
Ben Stokes, Durham's emerging allrounder, claimed two lbws in an impressive nine-over spell including a wicket with his third ball and any little hope of Surrey battling back into the match appeared to have been lost when Steve Davies edged behind only eight balls before the close.
"It was a great effort by the bowlers," Collingwood added. "There were periods when we were batting when it felt really flat but we managed to get the ball swinging and this Riverside pitch always seems to have something in it."