Worcs stagger despite Hughes ton
Durham 3 for 1 and 234 (Stokes 78, Andrew 5-86) need a further 148 runs to beat Worcestershire 120 and 264 (Hughes 105, Thorp 5-59)
The writing appears to be on the wall for Worcestershire at the end of a day in which their opening pair applied themselves with admirable diligence to overhaul Durham's first innings lead of 114, and then some, only for the remaining nine wickets to fall for the addition of only 116. They were undone by the contrasting bowling partnership of Callum Thorp and Scott Borthwick and, in several cases, by their own recklessness.
On either side of the lunch interval the game was dominated by Phillip Hughes. The young Australian, playing with all the off-side dash and flair that first brought him to notice in his homeland and led to selection in 17 Test matches so far, dominated a redemptive opening partnership with Daryl Mitchell.
He struck 18 boundaries in scoring his second first-class century for Worcestershire this summer but flashed at a wide one shortly afterwards and top edged to Phil Mustard behind the stumps. That is Phil Hughes: his approach makes him a delight to watch, but nothing ever quite feels permanent about him. He had also been dropped in the covers by Ben Stokes off Graham Onions when on 68.
When Hughes departed with the score on 148 he had scored 70% of his side's runs and the onus was on his team-mates to build on the start he had given them, but once Thorp and Borthwick were in harness the game tipped back in Durham's favour. The pair are separated by 15 years in age and by their bowling styles - medium pace and legspin - but they looked like a natural partnership as they chipped away at Worcestershire's middle and lower order during the afternoon and evening.
It was Stokes who removed both openers but from then on it was the Thorp and Borthwick show. Thorp ran in athletically from the Finchale End and exploited what movement still remained in a pitch that attracted the attention of pitch liaison officer Jack Birkenshaw on Tuesday. His first two wickets came in the space of two balls, the first when Vikram Solanki top-edged a pull shot which, in the context of the game, was somewhat reckless and the second when Joe Leach edged to slip.
Neil Pinner played neither forward or back to a straight ball and was trapped in front of his stumps, Scott had his off stump comprehensively removed and the innings ended when Alan Richardson whacked a ball high over mid-on to give Mark Stoneman an excellent third catch of the innings, though it was not his best.
Meanwhile Borthwick was wheeling out his nagging legspin at the Lumley End. Matthew Pardoe, who had top scored in Worcestershire's first innings, survived a sharp chance to Will Smith at third slip off Stokes before he had scored, but then continued in the unfussy manner which had brought dividends. When he had reached 21, however, he became the first of two batsmen to fall to the combination of Borthwick's spin and Stoneman's accomplished hands.
The second instance was the stand out moment of the day. Moeen Ali, who had scored 19 accomplished runs, turned a ball from in front of his pad and Stoneman swooped brilliantly to grab the ball with his left hand inches from the turf. Borthwick's third victim was Gareth Andrew, who might reflect that while the ball did hurry on to him and into his pads, his selection of a pull shot to a straight delivery so early in his innings was not the wisest.
Durham had four potentially tricky overs to negotiate at the end of the day, as they began what looked to be a comfortable pursuit of 151 to win. The day came to a conclusion when Smith, attempting to leave a ball from Chris Russell, played on for 2.
Worcestershire will have to manage something special on Thursday to give themselves hope for the rest of the Championship season, however. If they are to go on and avoid relegation it will be without the assistance of James Cameron, who played his last game for the club against Lancashire at New Road last week. The 26-year-old Zimbabwean has decided to leave the professional game to pursue a career in financial services.