Hastings extends bowlers' batting blitz
Sussex 335 (Robinson 110, Hobden 64*) and 115 for 3 lead Durham 339 (Hastings 72, Robinson 4-71, Shahzad 4-72) by 111 runs
Is the spring sunshine? Maybe it is the sound from the construction work going on in the background? Or something else in the wind at Chester-le-Street? Surely, there must be some explanation as to why bowlers are finding it so easy to score runs while batsmen are struggling to score quickly.
If day one was dominated by the tenth wicket partnership, it was the ninth wicket partnership on day two which propelled Durham into a slender lead after another batting collapse. John Hastings scored 72 and his 116 run partnership with Usman Arshad ensured that the hosts took a slender first innings lead.
Three wickets in the final hour of the day's play means that the game is evenly poised and the visitors will have to avoid another batting collapse on the third day if they harbour any hopes of making it three wins in a row.
The hero of the day was undoubtedly Hastings. While Ajmal Shahzad and debutant Oliver Robinson both picked up four wickets, it was the Australian's tight bowling and hard hitting which ensured that the hosts go into the third day still very much in the game.
Coming in with his side well and truly on the ropes, the 29-year-old transformed his bat into a weapon of mass destruction as he clobbered Sussex's bowlers to all corners of the ground.
On why the bowlers have been so successful with the bat in this game, Hastings said: "Every tail ender that walks out there now, can hold the bat at least. That's the way the trend is going: everyone can bat now."
His 72, which came off just 86 balls included 11 fours and the Australian was pleased to be batting rather than bowling. "I love my batting." he said. "It means I don't have to be out in the field and bowl more overs. So, the more time I spend out there batting, the better."
If his batting was all about power, his bowling consisted of considerable control as he tied things up from one end and kept the batsmen guessing. Although he was wicketless, it was he who triggered the wickets at the other end. While disappointed that he is unable to "buy a wicket" at the moment, the Australian was keen to point out that it was a team effort.
"It's just a matter of us sticking together out there, try to keep the pressure on as much as we can and someone will get the wickets."
Earlier in the day, Durham looked on course for a big lead, despite losing nightwatchman Chris Rushworth in the fourth over of the day, thanks to Scott Borthwick and Michael Richardson. But some fast, accurate bouncers from Matthew Hobden left both batsmen ruffled and Borthwick, in particular, seeing stars.
Both departed just before lunch and left the hosts in a spot of bother. Paul Collingwood and Calum MacLeod looked to have repaired the damage, before they lost three wickets in the space of five balls and slumped to 222/8.
After that it was "the Duke show" as Hastings did to Sussex's bowlers what they did to the hosts on the first day. His partnership with Arshad beat the previous record for the ninth wicket partnership for Durham against Sussex. Both fell trying to cash in on the new ball soon after taking a first innings lead.
Things were looking good for the visitors as their openers got them off to a good start for the first time this season. Chris Nash and Ed Joyce brought up their first fifty partnership for the opening wicket this season.
But both were dismissed in quick succession by Rushworth. Craig Cachopa lived a charmed life before he top edged a pull shot to mid-off off Graham Onions. Had Borthwick and MacLeod taken their catches in the final hour, the hosts might have been in an even better position going into the third day of what has been a rollercoaster game so far.