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Jon Culley in Chester-le-Street
May 4, 2014
Yorkshire 299 for 3 (Lyth 104, Williamson 97) v Durham
Victory for Yorkshire in this match last season did not stop Durham ultimately winning the Championship but Andrew Gale will feel there is no harm in setting down a marker again, not least with the wounds inflicted at Scarborough last August still feeling raw. It was there that Durham effectively clinched the title.
Joe Root's second-innings 182 was at the heart of Yorkshire's April win. In the first innings they had been bowled out for 177, which was as good almost as any visiting team fared in the bowler-friendly conditions that are the norm at Chester-le-Street. Only Warwickshire topped 200 all season, and even then only just.
Yorkshire will use that as they measure of their performance this time. Not since Lancashire in May 2011 have Durham conceded 300 first-innings runs to anyone here yet Yorkshire stand just one run away and only three men down, a handsome reward for Andrew Gale's boldness in choosing to bat first. Gale does not shy away from tough decisions, as he demonstrated last week at Lord's, when the name omitted from the scorecard to accommodate Root was his.
There is no Root this time, of course, following his selection, along with Gary Ballance, for the opening one-day international of the summer. They might see little more of them, which will make their performance here doubly reassuring if they are again to sustain a title bid.
Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan are back, at least for the moment, although it was to Adam Lyth and Kane Williamson that Gale was indebted for supporting his bravery. Lyth made his ninth first-class century, batting with a level of self-restraint that goes against his natural instincts; Williamson very nearly matched it.
Lyth was not flawless, although with plenty in the pitch and the atmospheric conditions to interest the bowlers that came as no surprise. Of his streaky moments, the streakiest came when he was on 88, when an edge off Mark Wood flew high to Scott Borthwick, who parried the ball high enough for Paul Collingwood to scamper round from first, hoping to catch it coming down. He got his hands to it but it did not stick.
Yet the left-hander did not take risks unduly, curbing his aggression for much longer periods than is his normal habit. He picked up a boundary, squirted off the edge, in the first over of the day but had faced 69 balls before he hit another. When he did attack, though, he made it pay, gathering 15 fours along the way.
He was out just after tea, a little tamely in the end, pushing at a ball from Jamie Harrison he might have left alone, to be caught at second slip. By then Yorkshire had claimed their first point. Williamson, solid where Gale scratched around at the other end, guided them to a second before on 97, equalling his best so far for Yorkshire -- in the Scarborough match, as it happens -- he drove at a full-length delivery from Chris Rushworth, in his first over with the second new ball, and was bowled through the gate.
Durham, it should be pointed out, bowled well short of their usual standards. Graham Onions, who took five first-innings wickets in this match last April, struggled with his line and length and while Harrison and Rushworth looked threatening sporadically, no one in the home attack achieved any consistency.
They did not catch that well, either. Apart from giving Lyth a life, they allowed Williamson to escape on 92, when Phil Mustard, diving to his right, dropped a low chance offered off Mark Wood's bowling. And a forgettable day for Onions was compounded when Gale, on 13, edged at comfortable height to third slip where Kumar Sangakkara, on his Durham debut, had the ball in his grasp only to let it pop out again.
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