Stokes' sober approach suits Durham
Durham 250 (Stokes 49, Borthwick 45, Trego 3-59, Kirby 3-58) v Somerset
Ben Stokes' preparations for the new county season were hardly ideal as he was sent home from the England Lions' tour of Australia for disciplinary reasons in February. It all accentuated the disappointment that the 21-year-old Durham allrounder had felt about his batting form in 2012, a year in which he failed to advance his career both domestically and internationally.
Stokes played five one-day internationals and two T20 internationals for England in 2011, but the selectors didn't come calling last year.
In fact, Stokes was the third highest scoring Durham batsman in first-class cricket last year with 625 runs at 27, but this was 11 below his career average and his county will want more from him batting at No 5 this season.
In his defence it is worth bearing in mind that a batsman can never feel "in" at the Riverside. It does Stokes no harm either that he contributed 32 wickets with a decent average in 2012 after a period in which his bowling longevity had also been brought into question.
When he came to the wicket on the opening day against Somerset at Chester-le-Street, his side was wobbling, having lost three wickets in the space of six overs. On a bitterly cold morning Marcus Trescothick can have had no hesitation when he won the toss in unleashing his pace pair of Peter Trego and Steve Kirby at the Durham batsmen. Stokes announced himself with a thumping pull to the boundary and continued to be as assertive as the conditions allowed. Meanwhile Trego, Kirby and Alfonso Thomas were chipping away at the Durham line-up.
Stokes had reached 49, including six boundaries, when Trescothick turned for the first time to the left arm spin of the young Irishman George Dockrell, who promptly had him caught at the wicket. Phil Mustard and Scott Borthwick added further resistance as batting conditions became more friendly, but an impressive Somerset attack finished Durham off for 250 in the final over of the day.
Stokes' restrained innings at least indicated that he is prepared to knuckle down after the Lions sent him packing for excessive drinking. He faced 110 balls and put on 60 with his fellow left-hander Phil Mustard, who played well for 39 before he too surrendered to Dockrell, offering a soft return catch.
The recovery begun by Stokes and Mustard was continued by Scott Borthwick, who made 45 before he was last out, bowled by Kirby with 16 balls of the day's scheduled allocation remaining.
The identity of Someset's wicketkeeper caused much off-season debate as England's one-day coach, Ashley Giles, indicated his enthusiasm for Jos Buttler gaining more experience behind the stumps at county level. But the Championship job went to Craig Kieswetter, the man Buttler displaced in England's one-day side; Kieswetter took three catches.