Sangakkara applies sleeper hold to Sussex
Durham 451 for 7 dec (Sangakkara 159, Borthwick 84, Collingwood 74) drew with Sussex 505 (Wright 189, Brown 163)
Watching Kumar Sangakkara make a hundred could never be described as a chore, even though some prefer the more delicate strokeplay of his long-time Sri Lanka batting buddy, Mahela Jayawardene. Sangakkara has a little bit more of the streetfighter about him and, although Hove is perhaps not a cauldron of enmity for visiting opponents, his grit was of material value to Durham as they quietly applied the sleeper hold to Sussex for their fourth draw of the season.
Paul Collingwood, Durham's captain, was happy to allow Sangakkara an extended centre-wicket practice session, having declined Sussex's offer of an innings forfeiture to set up a run chase. That would have meant Durham attempting to get 369 in 96 overs but Collingwood was happy to pursue a few more bonus points and preserve his team's unbeaten record - even if that means the champions remaining uncomfortably close to the bottom of Division One.
Mark Robinson confirmed that Sussex "wanted to have a game" but he was respectful of the polite snub. He was a little more perturbed about not being able to field Chris Jordan for the second match running. Jordan was ruled out of last week's trip to Old Trafford due to his involvement in the Scotland ODI and the ECB asked for him to sit out this match as well due to a concern about over-bowling.
Sussex have back-to-back T20 games at the weekend, before England's players link up again ahead of the Sri Lanka series. Jordan took part in a 2nd XI T20 fixture on Wednesday, specifically to practise his death bowling, and Robinson described him as a rhythm bowler who performs better when he is playing regularly, although he was pragmatic about the situation.
"Peter Moores is the England coach, he's trying to protect an asset, I want my asset playing here to win a game," he said. "The county game needs its best players playing, where possible. At times it won't be possible."
In Robinson's words, Sangakkara was "the biggest winner out of the day". His 159, spread over six hours and many more minutes in the dressing room while the rain fell on Tuesday, was his highest first-class score in England, surpassing two centuries for Warwickshire against Durham in 2007 and 153 in a tour match at Chelmsford three years ago. His only Test hundred in this country also came in 2011, a match-saving 119 in Southampton, and this short-term spell in county cricket has been aimed at improving on a mediocre record here.
He has been keen to express his gratitude to Durham for their part in the deal and the brief time spent sharing knowledge with young team-mates in the dressing room will doubtless have been beneficial. This innings was also the main plank in securing Durham four batting points - though they fell short of the maximum haul during the 11-ball scramble for eight more runs that followed his dismissal.
There was much for a generous-minded crowd to applaud when Sangakkara finally fell on the stroke of tea, reward for Steve Magoffin, who had seen him dropped in the slips on 20 the previous day. Sangakkara had steadily grown in fluency, with his first fifty taking 116 balls (and being completed around 24 hours after his innings began); the next took 76 and the final 55.
Sangakkara now has a few grey strands in among his black tousled hair - perhaps that was why Scott Borthwick referred to him as a "cricket badger" after their century stand on the third day - and this was a wise old knock. Every time he was beaten, or dropped the hands to nullify an edge, he recalibrated his batting senses and got back on with the job at hand. Luke Wright was breezily flicked for six, Ashar Zaidi clubbed a little more ruthlessly over the short, leg-side boundary. His footwork was sure and his striking, for the most part, crisp.
His partnership with Collingwood was worth 144 in less than 30 overs as Durham hit the accelerator after losing Borthwick, for his overnight 84, and Michael Richardson. Collingwood unpacked his boxfresh cover drive again, at one point hitting six boundaries in 11 balls, though he had no regrets about declining Sussex's offer. "I thought it was a bit early in the season to go hunting for victories," he said.
His mood was further improved by the suggestion that Graham Onions' back problem may not be as bad as first feared. He said that the "scans look positive" after Onions' trip to see a specialist and the seamer could be fit to play again after an injection.
Although the poor weather that sluiced away much of the previous two days was chiefly responsible for condemning this game to a draw, the pitch was a willing accomplice. By the end, Ben Brown was having his first-ever bowl in senior cricket, with Michael Yardy filling in behind the stumps. Without the sight of Sangakkara to enjoy, most joined the surface in nodding off to sleep.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick