MacLeod and Hastings turn the tables
Durham 329 for 8 (MacLeod 84, Hastings 83, Smith 4-37, Kerrigan 3-86) v Lancashire
For all the complex ramifications of Division One results over the final six weeks of the season, one simple truth holds good: unless Lancashire win a couple more games their chances of avoiding relegation are approximately zippo deluxe. It was surely that prime requirement that caused Old Trafford officials to use the recent Test wicket for this game against Durham. After all, they may have reasoned, a universally-praised strip that had produced an England win inside three days was likely to help their spinners without attracting any unwanted attention from the pitch police.
For a session it seemed that what the plan may have lacked in subtlety, it had made up for in effectiveness. When Phil Mustard stepped across his stumps and was lbw trying to work Simon Kerrigan to leg fifteen minutes before lunch Durham were 82 for 5, this after selecting two twirlers themselves and opting to bat. Lancastrian delight was probably increased by the fact that Paul Collingwood - the renowned Brigadier Block - had departed for a fourth-ball duck eight deliveries previously when he edged Tom Smith wide to Alex Davies' right, only to see the keeper complete a fine one-handed catch.
Sadly for home hopes, the satisfaction Glen Chapple's attack felt at the first interval had turned to disillusionment by teatime and severe disappointment at the close of play. By then, the memory of Kerrigan's three wickets in 24 balls - all of them left-handers - had faded as Durham mounted a fine fightback, rooted first in the resilience of Calum MacLeod and Michael Richardson and then in the calculated aggression of John Hastings.
In the half hour or so before the close MacLeod was lbw on the back foot to Tom Bailey for 84 and Hastings lost his middle stump to Smith when 83; both men may have been contemplating seeing three figures against their names for the first time in their careers. However, their different methods of resistance had allowed Ben Stokes to drive up from The Oval and Lancashire still have work to do on the second morning of this game.
Yet if Stokes and Ryan Buckley strengthen Durham's position even further, they can thank Richardson and MacLeod for giving them the opportunity. Durham's sixth-wicket pair resisted a buoyant Lancashire attack to add 63 in 26 overs and their blunting of the bowlers changed the balance of the contest.
Although Smith claimed the wicket of Richardson for 38 in mid-afternoon when Durham's No. 4 steered him crookedly to Usman Khawaja in the gully, MacLeod and Hastings were able to bat with far greater assurance in the second half of the day and their 145-run stand for the seventh wicket exactly doubled their side's score.
And while Hastings' half-dozen sixes may have caught the attention of the crowd, MacLeod's 221-minute vigil for a career-best 84 was equally significant. Originally taken on trial after impressing Collingwood when he helped coach Scotland, the 25-year-old has signed a contract to the end of the season and his unfussy composure in a tough situation will have won him more brownie points with his skipper.
For all that Hastings 119-ball innings was filled with the sort of destructive strokeplay which saps an opposition's spirit - he hit Kerrigan and Stephen Parry for three sixes apiece - MacLeod played the longest and best innings of the day. It was his contribution which moulded the architecture of Durham's first innings, although it helped that none of the visitors' three main batsmen were left handers. For it was when bowling into the rough outside their off stump that Kerrigan had enjoyed his success in the first session.
Indeed, Keaton Jennings and Scott Borthwick had both been driven to desperate measures, the first caught off bat and pad by Steven Croft when reverse sweeping and the second skying a catch to Glen Chapple at mid-off when advancing down the wicket to his England Lions colleague. This latter wicket gave Kerrigan special pleasure and Smith was no doubt disarmingly happy to collect his 50th Championship wicket of the season. But it is team victories which Lancashire need and their prospects of achieving one in this game had not improved by the close of the first day.