Harmison and Thorp squeeze Lancashire
Durham 205 for 8 (Benkenstein 64, Park 42*) beat Lancashire 199 for 9 (Loye 77) by 6 runs
Durham scraped home by six runs against Lancashire in an exciting match in the FP Trophy at the Riverside Ground. With the balance swinging first one way and then the other, the result was in doubt until the end, and it was the home crowd who went home celebrating.
Despite a reasonably sunny morning after days of cloud at Chester-le-Street, Lancashire put Durham in bat, presumably because of a lot of moisture in the pitch. Quick scoring was difficult for everybody.
Not that this appeared to be the case when Sajid Mahmood bowled a short, wide first ball of the match to Michael Di Venuto, who slashed it through the covers for four. Di Venuto was not permitted to continue the good form he showed against Yorkshire, however, as with just 9 to his credit, his partner Phil Mustard sold him a dummy by calling for a single straight to square leg. He was run out for the third time in four dismissals, and the fourth time this season.
After 15 overs, Durham had struggled to 35 for 3, the bowler mainly responsible being the impressive Kyle Hogg, who bowled his ten overs off the reel for 19 runs, collecting the wickets of Mustard and Kyle Coetzer. Recovery came through the two South Africans, who added 101 together. Neil McKenzie fought his way to some sort of form with 32, while Dale Benkenstein was more fluent with 64 off 108 balls. He eventually skied a pull off Lancashire's debutant Stephen Cheetham, whom he had earlier pulled for six. Cheetham took two wickets, but generally bowled too short.
As Durham's later batsmen struggled, a total of 200 seemed unlikely, but Gary Park came to their rescue. After playing himself in, he ran to 42 not out off 37 balls, hitting two successive sixes in the final over, bowled by Mahmood. Mahmood is not proving successful as a death bowler at present, following his final over that conceded 17 to Yorkshire a week ago.
Graham Onions, Durham's pace bowling hero in their mid-week championship match against Yorkshire, began with a ragged over, but tightened up to ensure Lancashire struggled for runs. The real strangler was Callum Thorp, whose opening spell of eight overs cost only eight runs, and Lancashire began to lose wickets as they fought in vain to keep up - after 30 overs, they were only 81 for 3. A vital blow to them was the loss of Stuart Law for 8, run out by a fine piece of fielding from Park. On the other hand, their opener Mal Loye was crucially dropped at slip off Steve Harmison when he had 32.
Slowly Loye and Steven Croft fought back, but they were struggling against a required run rate of more than six an over. They needed 54 from the last eight overs, but there were six wickets in hand and a close finish beckoned. Steve Harmison was Durham's man for the moment. Loye, looking a little desperate, finally skied a catch for 77, trying to hit him out of the ground, and Croft soon followed, caught at the wicket for 48. At 170 for 6 in the 45th over, Lancashire were up against it.
They needed 26 from the last three, but an over from Gareth Breese cost 11, despite seeing Luke Sutton dismissed. Hogg, the most likely batsman to do the job, edged Thorp to the keeper for 15, and 11 were needed from the final over, bowled by Onions. Two runs scored off three balls, then Marshall was caught at third man; the last wicket needed nine runs off the final two balls. Although Onions was not at his best, Mahmood was unable to pull off the near-miracle, and Durham were home. Harmison had the best figures of 3 for 44, but Thorp's ten overs for just 14 runs and a wicket was also crucial.