Stoneman resists barnstorming Barker
Durham 185 (Collingwood 68, Jones 4-48, Barker 4-54) and 189 for 4 (Stoneman 83*, Barker 3-55) trail Warwickshire450 (Barker 102*, Westwood 88, Patel 58, Onions 5-85 ) by 76 runs
Title contenders in any team sport are often characterised as much by an aversion to defeat as a thirst for victory. In the first three days of this match Warwickshire's cricketers have shown their desire to win the game; in the final three sessions Durham's players have a chance to further demonstrate their hatred of losing it. It is almost certainly all that is left to the visitors and it is worth more than five points.
In the recent era known as BB (Before Barker) Durham welcomed this fixture, winning seven of the nine Championship games played between the sides. Since then they have lost four of the last six. That will be five in seven on Wednesday evening unless Paul Collingwood's batsmen continue their prolonged resistance to an attack that has generally kept the ball up to the bat on an excellent pitch and accepted as collateral punishment the leaking of boundaries attached to this approach.
Carrying Durham's standard in the second innings was Mark Stoneman, whose technically correct 83 not out was a 161-ball act of penance for his carelessness in getting out on Tuesday evening. Also wearing a hair-shirt was Collingwood, although he has little reason for self-reproach after being last man out for 68 when having a swipe at Boyd Rankin in Durham's first innings. When this pair trooped off at 6.50pm, they had helped reduce their side's 265-run deficit to a manageable 76. While there is still work to be done to save the game, at least a start has been made
For Warwickshire it was, yet again, Keith Barker who led his side's thorough examination of the defensive technique of Durham's top and middle order; and in the first half of the day Collingwood's men failed the test. The left-arm seamer got rid of three more batsmen as Durham lost their last seven wickets for 135 runs in a mere 25.5 overs. Having then had the luncheon interval in which to rehydrate and recover, Barker was ready to lead his side's attack when the follow-on was enforced.
In his second over he removed Keaton Jennings, who completed a poor match by limply edging a catch to Rikki Clarke at slip; in his fifth he had Scott Borthwick lbw for 14 when a ball nipped back a shade and struck the rear leg. And there was still time for Barker to return and have Michael Richardson caught by Varun Chopra at slip for 47 after the Durham right-hander had added 72 with Stoneman for the third wicket in 18 overs. Calum MacLeod then put on a further 64 with the opener before he gloved a catch to Clarke at slip when unable to avoid a hostile delivery from Rankin who was then bowling around the wicket. Stoneman and Collingwood took care of business for the last ten overs of a long rain-interrupted day.
Indeed, weather had provided a curious backcloth to the cricket. The wicket of Richardson fell just before the third and last break but there seems no doubt that this third day escaped comparatively unscathed in losing just 16 overs. Like 19th century American settlers, Durham's players looked westwards with hope in their hearts but the expected rain did not arrive. Heavy showers had been confidently forecast yet while it poured elsewhere in the Midlands, at both Wantage and Grace Roads for example, Edgbaston's Pershore Road remained mostly dry. Rather in the manner of pageboys in Shakespeare's history plays, the groundstaff waited by the covers, doing little, saying nothing, but available to spring into action if summoned.
They saw some pretty ropey batting in the morning session, when Durham declined from 50 for 3 to 182 for 8, 66 of the runs coming from the bat of Collingwood who at last found a stubborn partner in the No. 10 Chris Rushworth. Richard Jones took the first wicket when he bowled MacLeod off the inside edge with the fourth ball of the day. Barker then removed Richardson, caught at slip, Mustard, lbw for a golden duck, and Coughlin, middle stump uprooted, all in just six balls before John Hastings was leg before to Clarke for 14. That left Durham on 125 for 8 and people were wondering about a three-day finish.
Instead they could enjoy the sight of Stoneman, middling a few, smearing others, but sticking around regardless.
"We're still in it and if we can now get a good session or two sessions in, we'll have the chance of a few more points than we probably expected at the start of the day," he said. "I've felt really good this season and ironically this is the worst I've felt at the start of an innings. Maybe I've gone at balls a little bit hard in the leave alone area. It was nice to have the opportunity to bat time with no pressure to set the game up, just take each ball as it comes."
One person unlikely to be bowling those balls, however, is Jones, who has aggravated a foot injury and is unlikely to take any part on the final day. That represents something of a fillip for Durham, who may need all the help they can get if they are to secure the draw. Although as Collingwood and Stoneman might observe, it is self-help that brings cricketers their greatest satisfaction.