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Alan Gardner at Hove
May 13, 2014
Durham 137 for 2 (Borthwick 84*) trail Sussex 505 for 9 dec by 368 runs
This game seems destined to end in a draw, with more than 100 overs lost so far and Sussex, the only side with a puncher's chance of victory, requiring 18 wickets or some generous collusion in the time remaining. Five extra points will not be a great deal of help to either side at their respective ends of the table but, on a personal level, the experience at Hove on the third day may come in useful for the two batsmen who spent much of it dodging the showers.
Scott Borthwick's chances of retaining his place as England's Test spinner appear to be slim, with Moeen Ali favoured as a batsman able to turn his wrist over in a spare moment, but while Borthwick has only taken three Championship wickets so far this year, runs may be more important to his case. He scored 1000 of them after being promoted to No. 3 for Durham last season and this was his first significant knock of 2014.
Most of his unbeaten 84 came whilst batting alongside Kumar Sangakkara, who was able to offer the perspective of a Test No. 3 during their chats between overs. Borthwick could still find himself lining up against Sangakkara when the first Test against Sri Lanka begins next month but here the two shared in a 103-run partnership that was to the benefit of Durham, helping guide the depleted champions towards a safer promontory in this match.
Afterwards, Sangakkara said Borthwick's innings was "just what you want from a number three", which is quite a compliment from someone who has batted there 186 times in Tests. Borthwick, meanwhile, described Sangakkara in the more modern argot as an "absolute cricket badger", for his propensity to impart wisdom about the game during rain breaks or when taking his new team-mates out for dinner.
"He's fantastic to bat with, so relaxed and calm, always helping me along the way," Borthwick said. "It was an absolute honour for me to bat with him and get a hundred-run partnership. Hopefully we can double up tomorrow, and he gets in and I can stand at the other end and watch him blaze it everywhere."
Sangakkara joined Durham for two Championship games in order to ease him into English conditions - though he dutifully stressed his commitment to helping the club while he is here. After making 0 and 14 against Yorkshire last week, he watchfully made certain of a more extended outing this time. With the players on and off repeatedly during the morning and afternoon, this was the perfect warm-up for an acclimatising Sri Lankan - if only in the figurative sense.
He survived a couple of chances off Steve Magoffin, one an edge that flashed through the hands of Michael Yardy at slip when he had 20, and was struck a wince-inducing blow on the box by the same bowler. For the most part he confined himself to leaving, defending and nurdling, though there was a glimpse of something more flowing when he drove Luke Wright to the cover boundary to move into double figures. He might have had a moment of fond reflection when facing the bowling of Jon Lewis, whose only Test was Sri Lanka's last win in England back in 2006.
Borthwick also had his tougher periods against Magoffin, who extracted more bounce than either Lewis or James Anyon, and steered several thick edges either short or wide of the slips. There were plenty of pleasing strokes intermingled, however, including consecutive boundaries off Anyon to move to fifty and a pitching-wedge pull over the short, leg-side boundary that sailed into the members' stand and back out again.
While the skies around the ground looked ominously empurpled - to borrow a description usually reserved for Alex Ferguson's cheeks - for most of the day, initially the rain fell elsewhere. Sussex declared their first innings on 505 for 9 and Anyon took a wicket with his first ball before ten minutes were lost to a brief shower. The morning session was further curtailed as the pitch received another quick spritzing on the brink of lunch but it was only when they went off for a fourth time during the afternoon, with 45.2 overs bowled, that the rainfall was allowed to have won.
Durham's third-wicket pair came together after an avoidable run-out with the score on 34. Borthwick called for a second after pushing into the covers, before changing his mind upon seeing Wright rapidly collect and return his throw. Keaton Jennings was left stranded mid-pitch, casting reproachful glances in his partner's direction while haltingly continuing towards the dressing rooms, as Borthwick inspected the state of his shoelaces.
The running between Sangakkara and Borthwick early on was just as scatty: Durham's temporary overseas signing could twice have been dismissed by direct hits in the same Anyon over. Sangakkara only played four scoring strokes before lunch, one a leg glance to the boundary from his second delivery, prompting a Sussex member to query: "How many Test runs has this Sri Lankan fella got?"
The answer is 11,151 but only 520 (at 30.58) of them have come in England. He will be hoping to improve on that after this reconnoitre, whilst also further impressing his credentials on the Sussex membership.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderickFeeds: Alan Gardner
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