McCarthy and Borthwick lead Durham's charge
Durham 411 and 239 for 4 (Borthwick 103*, Stoneman 62) lead Lancashire 326 (Hameed 74, Petersen 61, Kerrigan 48, McCarthy 5-70)
As if in playful reproof to those who thought the second half of this game might limp into high-scoring tedium, Tuesday's cricket galloped along like a Grand National winner crossing the Melling Road and brought riches beyond our imagining. Spectators watching the final three sessions might therefore have something of a treat in store if the forecast rain keeps its distance and Paul Collingwood successfully balances the risk of defeat against the enticement of victory.
Thanks to the bowling of Barry McCarthy, an Irish seamer who bats a bit, Durham dismissed Lancashire for 326 just after lunch and had extended their 86-run lead to a prosperous 324 by the close. They did so largely thanks to Scott Borthwick's second century of the match and for the loss of only four wickets.
This represented rather more success than Lancashire looked likely to enjoy for much of the afternoon session when their attack had bowled with the unaccustomed ill-discipline of Rechabites on a pub-crawl. Forsaking the rectitude that had served them so well in their two victories, they offered Borthwick and Mark Stoneman a modest portion of Lancastrian tripe. The Durham pair added some vinegar, sprinkled on a little salt, and tucked in, adding 91 runs for the second wicket in 22 overs either side of tea.
Keaton Jennings must have cursed the fact that he had missed out. He fenced at a ball from Kyle Jarvis, the best of Lancashire's seamers, and edged the ball straight to Liam Livingstone's bread-basket. This is currently the most fatal of errors. Lancashire's new slipper treats cricket balls rather as black holes treat matter: nothing that enters ever leaves. Livingstone has pouched ten slip catches this season and dropped none.
Stoneman and Borthwick made no such blunders. Instead they pummelled Lancashire's bowling in fine style, Borthwick driving Neil Wagner each side of cover and Stoneman pulling both Luke Procter and Tom Bailey for sixes, the crack of the bat loud enough to awaken the much-advertised ghost of Lumley Castle.
To their credit, Croft's men fought back in the evening session but they could not prevent Borthwick, whose driving and innings-management were a joy, becoming the second Durham batsmen this season after Jennings, and the fourth in history, to make two hundreds in a first-class game. Borthwick reached his landmark off 160 balls with a single to long leg off Bailey, who also had already enjoyed an eventful day. For example having seen - although "not seen" might be more accurate - a slower ball drilled back past him at an alarming velocity, the young seamer produced a good one in the same over to have Stoneman caught behind by Alex Davies for 62.
Three overs later Borthwick and Burnham hesitated over a single like two maiden aunts dilly-dallying over a second amontillado and Burnham was run out for a single. Michael Richardson added a merry 35 before reverse sweeping Simon Kerrigan to Livingstone but the spectators' attention was by then given exclusively to Borthwick, who is so much a part of this richly-rooted community that his nana occasionally sends a prawn curry and basmati rice to the radio commentators at lunchtime. "With nana bread?" asked a low wit. The warmth of the applause when the 26-year-old Sunderland lad reached three figures was as much affectionate as appreciative.
And all this entertainment followed a morning's cricket which was dominated by the four Lancashire players dismissed, three of them front-line batsmen, and the one who was not, nightwatchman Kerrigan. Two not out overnight, Kerrigan added 42 more runs in two hours in the morning and rarely looked discomfited from the moment he clipped McCarthy's third ball of the morning to the midwicket boundary.
One may argue that the loss of Croft, leg before for 35 to a ball from McCarthy that skidded on and performed a modest limbo, had left Kerrigan as the senior partner in subsequent stands. If so, he responded in appropriate fashion, adding 62 for the seventh wicket with Davies before McCarthy returned to the attack with the not-so-new ball. But the Irishman spent no time griping over his place in Collingwood's attack. He is one of a trio of Durham seamers trying to make their mark in this match - James Weighell and Brydon Carse are the others - and he made his case by taking three wickets for seven runs in 14 balls just before lunch.
This may have left the undefeated batsman a trifle flummoxed. In his 28 years on Earth, Simon Kerrigan has probably run out of money, patience, petrol and nightclubs but he cannot have imagined he would ever run out of partners. However, his confusion was cleared in unwelcome fashion ten balls after the resumption when he became McCarthy's fifth wicket, leg before when only two runs short of what would have been his second first-class fifty.
Such a modest failure matters little in the context of a game which is wonderfully poised for its final day. As he mulls over his declaration, Collingwood might be advised to resist the temptation to think of a total Lancashire would find it tough to reach, add 30 runs and then give his not-out batsmen a couple of good overs for luck. Such a strategy leads to the setting of a target which Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag would struggle to reach in a first-class game. That said, Collingwood has an inexperienced attack and knows his business better than anyone.
It is now early evening and the light is thickening at the Riverside. The riot of greens in Broad Wood and The Haughs are fading a little. Earlier in the day one had been wondering why, if Isle of Lewis has 126 terms for peat, England has about 14 words for green. Tomorrow, with just a little luck, there will be more cricket….and more of all this.