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Tim Wigmore in Taunton
May 20, 2014
Durham 155 and 121 for 1 (Stoneman 60*, Richardson 57*) lead Somerset 234 (Petersen 78, Wood 5-37, Rushworth 4-70) by 42 runs
"You wouldn't want to face Graham Onions on this," one supporter said as Durham tried to exploit an overcast start to the second day at Taunton. But, with Onions missing with a back injury, Chris Rushworth and Mark Wood provided a reminder of the depth of Durham's fast-bowling stocks.
England have already shown an interest in Wood, involving him in the Lions tour to Sri Lanka. Based on this compelling evidence - and a first-class haul that is now 60 wickets at 22 apiece - he may soon be the latest Durham bowler to earn a Test cap.
From an idiosyncratic start, beginning his run-up like a relay runner about to receive a baton, Wood generates distinctly sharp pace: his deliveries invariably arrived in Phil Mustard's gloves with a notable thud. His natural delivery, short-of-a-length, is a little reminiscent of Andrew Flintoff's, though it comes from a shorter and less stocky frame.
After pushing batsmen back, Wood possesses a yorker that can exploit any hesitation coming forward. Twice he earned the satisfaction of removing the batsman's middle stump; few players would have been able to resist the delivery that accounted for Craig Kieswetter. As spectacular as the sight was, most impressive of all was Wood's relentless line outside off-stump: 97 deliveries in the day yielded only 31 runs.
In Chris Rushworth, he had the ideal ally. With a fuller length and longer run-up, Rushworth's style is less distinct than Wood's. But his value to Durham is beyond dispute: he took 57 wickets in last season's championship victory, and a new contract retaining him until 2017 is recognition of his worth.
The scalp of James Hildreth, strangled down the legside to the first ball after lunch, transformed the trajectory of the day. Hildreth, driving with nonchalant ease and timing a pull off Rushworth so supremely that it went for six, had looked serene in adding 79 with Alviro Petersen. When Rushworth disposed of Peter Trego and Alfonso Thomas soon after, it left Somerset stuck in a rut at 154 for 7.
It fell to Petersen to prevent the work of his compatriot Thomas on the opening day going to waste. The judgment he displayed, switching from stern defence at the start of the day to controlled belligerence when Somerset were vulnerable after lunch, was befitting of an established Test player, and a pair of thumping sixes off Jamie Harrison threatened to test the resilience of the press box windows.
But it seemed apt that Petersen's wicket should eventually go to Harrison: Paul Collingwood, who had earlier spilled him in the slips on 30, did not repeat the mistake.
After the first day included the confusion of the Overton twins bowling from both ends, the second brought an even bigger challenge as they batted together. But Craig soon became identifiable by the distance he harrumphed the ball. Three sixes included an astonishing flat-batted pull, reminiscent of a tennis forehand, off Rushworth.
The upshot was that Somerset reached 234. While adding 80 for the last three wickets was commendable, the innings still rather reeked of missing an opportunity to gain a more decisive advantage.
That sense was added to as Durham enjoyed batting in the sunniest conditions of the match. Even with Scott Borthwick going to hospital - he was struck on his right-hand just a fortnight after chipping a bone, and his fitness to bat will be assessed in the morning - Durham lent the first innings scores in this match a new perspective.
Mark Stoneman and Michael Richardson had added an unbeaten hundred by the close - both had reached half-centuries, with Richardson twice dispatching George Dockrell for sixes.
Thomas, who claimed Keaton Jennings with a sharp catch at square leg by George Dockrell, was exemplary again, darting the ball both ways. He deserved more reward, but by the close Craig Overton's drop of Stoneman, 10 runs into his unbeaten 60, had the feel of being a pivotal moment.
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