Lancashire v Durham, County Championship, Old Trafford, 1st day

Flawed techniques to the fore

John Ward at Old Trafford

May 7, 2008

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Lancashire 143 (Davies 7-33) lead Durham 114 (Flintoff 4-21, Anderson 4-31) by 29 runs
Scorecard


Mark Davies celebrates dismissing Andrew Flintoff for a first-ball duck. Davies finished with career-best figures of 7 for 33 © PA Photos
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Deficient techniques rather than deficient pitch were to blame on a day the county batsmen did not acquit themselves well on a bouncy Old Trafford pitch in conditions where the bowlers could swing the ball.

Although Lancashire finished on top, leading Durham by 29 runs, the Man of the Match to date was Durham seamer Mark Davies, who started the entire batting nightmare by ripping through the home side's middle order to return his best career figures of 7 for 33. True, he benefited from some incompetence at the other end, but that should not detract from a masterly performance. His personal pleasure soon evaporated, though, in the face of even more woeful batting from his own team.

In sunny weather and on a good-looking shaven pitch, such carnage was hardly to be expected. Lancashire batted on winning the toss and progressed without undue difficulty to 33, with Paul Horton making most of the running. Then both openers fell on that score, both to catches in the slips as they flashed unwisely at the ball. Steve Harmison dismissed Horton, but the best bowler, coming on first change, was Davies, who kept an accurate line and length just on or outside the off stump, and reaped a rich harvest.

After removing Chilton, he beat Mohammad Younis twice in an over before inducing an edge to the keeper off a ball that flew, a fine delivery. Mal Loye handled the bowling well, however, while Stuart Law played himself in carefully, and not long after lunch Lancashire were fighting back on 93 for 3.

After this, nothing was the same again; perhaps the batsmen suddenly decided the pitch was full of unseen terrors and adjusted their mental state accordingly. In seven balls, Davies took four wickets without a run being added, and a fifth 10 balls later. First to go was Loye (39), who sliced a ball into the gully, where Ben Harmison took a sharp overhead catch at the second attempt.

Andrew Flintoff came and went first ball, pushing hesitantly at a ball that bounced and moved away, and edging a catch to his England team-mate Paul Collingwood at first slip. It was his second first baller in a fortnight. Luke Sutton avoided the hat-trick, but then edged the third delivery he faced to the keeper; Kyle Hogg soon followed, snicking his second ball to second slip. The fifth wicket in this sequence was the big one of Law, who brought up the team's 100 with a snick for four just over the keeper's head, and then was caught in the gully off one that flew from the shoulder of his bat.

Lancashire were shattered. Saj Mahmood fought back with 31, looking more assured than any of his team-mates apart from Loye, before Collingwood nipped in with the last two wickets. Lancashire had been skittled for 143 and an early tea was taken.

"Play the ball as little as possible." This may have been Durham's advice to their batsmen, having seen the trouble Lancashire had got themselves into - all ten wickets had fallen to catches between the keeper and point - but, if so, Mark Stoneman (2) took it a little too literally, shouldering arms and seeing his off stump removed by a quick ball from James Anderson.

Unlike Lancashire, Durham never even had a brief happy period with the bat. Anderson was the most dangerous bowler, constantly threatening the stumps, while Flintoff produced a vicious lifter that Kyle Coetzer popped up haplessly for a catch on the off side. Collingwood (3) slashed at Anderson and was dismissed by the sort of fine catch at backward point that he himself usually specialises in. The only batsman in the top six to reach double figures was Garry Park, who fought hard but never looked comfortable in making 19.

Durham's highest stand of the day was a mere 24, for the eighth wicket, between Ben Harmison (beaten and bowled by the sheer pace of Flintoff for 15) and Mitch Claydon, whose assertive strokeplay in making his highest career score of 40 off 38 balls (7 fours) put his seniors to shame. It was also the highest score of the day, a worthy achievement. He was the last man out, finally yorked by Flintoff, as Durham were dismissed for 114 in a single extended session.

Anderson and Flintoff took four wickets each, with Anderson the best of Lancashire's bowlers. At the present rate of progress, this match might not reach its third day. Or perhaps one of the teams will produce a batsman who will display the technique and willpower to produce an innings of real quality and turn this game on its head again.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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