Borthwick battles to keep Durham alive
Worcestershire 323 and 65 for 6 (Hastings 3-6) lead Durham 198 (Borthwick 103, Onions 36*, Shantry 4-39) by 190 runs
Durham redrew battle lines as 16 wickets fell in an all-action second day at New Road. A century by Scott Borthwick, more than half of his runs coming in a last-wicket stand of 95 with Graham Onions, halted a stampede by Worcestershire's seamers and then Durham's pace attack went on the rampage with 6 for 65 before bad light came to the home side's rescue.
Borthwick made 103 and Onions was unbeaten on 36, his highest Championship score in three years, as Durham were dismissed for 198, a deficit of 125, but Worcestershire, with a lead of 190 at the end of play, probably hold a marginal advantage in bowler-friendly conditions.
Borthwick's innings, always resolute and frequently exhilarating, was perhaps the most unexpected and most rewarding of his six Championship centuries since he became a top-order batsman two years ago.
When Onions went to the crease some 40 minutes after lunch, Durham had lost nine wickets on the day for the addition of 89 after a harrowing experience against Worcestershire's impressive seam trio of Joe Leach, Charlie Morris and Jack Shantry. Given all the tools they needed, with cloud cover and signs of unreliable bounce, they shifted Durham's openers in quick time, Keaton Jennings and Mark Stoneman beaten on the drive, and the next seven batsmen failed to reach double figures.
Leach claimed three wickets in 30 balls, notably when an lbw decision scuppered Paul Collingwood's move up the order, and the momentum was such that Durham could hardly find a run other than those that Borthwick chiselled from a desperate situation.
Calum MacLeod was last out before lunch, an inside edge finding short leg via the thigh pad, and the afternoon session began with five slips posted for Shantry. Chances duly flew to third and fourth in the line, and then first slip was called on when Chris Rushworth was ninth out, a fourth wicket for Leach.
At that point Durham were 220 adrift and perhaps only those with memories of Onions' international career - and his part in saving two Test matches in South Africa - may have dared to consider that they could muster 174 to save the follow-on.
At first Borthwick made it his mission to keep Onions off strike, which he did to the extent that his partner rarely faced more than two balls in an over, and more worryingly for Worcestershire, he mostly did this with some comfort.
Borthwick's fifty arrived in a flurry of three consecutive boundaries, two pulls and sumptuous cover drive, and as Onions began to earn a vote of confidence, the last man raised a fifty partnership with an edged four and later cleared the follow-on threat with a crashing shot past cover.
The stand became a Durham record for this fixture, surpassing 84 added by Danny Law and Nick Hatch at Kidderminster in 2001, and Borthwick completed his hundred with a pull off Leach for his 14th four. He was to face only seven more balls, making 185 in all, before he was given out leg-before, a fourth wicket for Shantry as he attempted to turn the left-arm seamer on the leg-side.
Bowlers regained control again when Rushworth captured the first two Worcestershire wickets and handed over to John Hastings, who took 3 for 6 in two overs. The ball that did for Alex Gidman was an unplayable shooter.
Afterwards, Durham batsman Borthwick celebrated what he described as "one of my best hundreds". He said: "At 103 for 9 we tried to bat as long as we could. 'Bunny' hung around and after a while we got a bit of rhythm, with me taking four balls and him two. It was fantastic that I managed to get a nice score and put us back in the game. It was an unbelievable partnership but you can bat on this pitch if you get in."
Worcestershire assistant coach Matt Mason said of his team's performance: "What a strange day. At one point there, when we got that ninth wicket, I thought 'you beauty' and we're in a position here to maybe force the follow on. We were in a really strong position but I thought their last wicket stand was terrific.
"To be fair to our seamers, I thought they threw everything they could at them and hats off to the opposition. But we ended up with a 125-run lead that we would have taken at the start of the game. Those wickets tonight have rocked us a bit and put us a bit on the back foot but let's remember we are still 190 runs in front and still have four wickets in hand, so we are still in a strong position. The new ball in particular has definitely seamed around a bit and as time goes on it gets a little bit easier to bat."