Durham v Hampshire, Chester-le-Street, 2nd day June 7, 2009

Durham strong despite Tahir

John Ward at Chester-le-Street

Hampshire 105 and 52 for 4 trail Durham 311 (Smith 80, Blackwell 68, Tahir 5-85) by 154 runs

Durham's main priority for the second day was to build for themselves a really good platform to win this match, and this they achieved satisfactorily. After achieving a lead of over 200, their bowlers broke through to take four wickets before the close and leave Hampshire facing probable defeat on the morrow.

Overnight they were 84 for 2, 22 runs in arrears of Hampshire, and it took them just over an hour, 16 overs, to take the lead, without losing another wicket. This was largely excusable, as the pitch was giving some help to the bowlers again, although Hampshire do not have the same potency in their attack as do Durham. Will Smith and Gordon Muchall did not appear to be in much trouble, but caution was the number one watchword. However, they seemed to be quite adept at finding the very capable Hampshire fielders, with many firm strokes going directly to hand. Some relief came in the form of Imran Tahir, who again mixed good deliveries with frequent long hops and occasional full tosses. Smith finally reached a laborious but valuable 50 off 170 balls.

The stand was broken just before lunch as Muchall finally found the fielder once too often, pulling Dominic Cork, starting a new spell, rather loosely in the air straight to square leg and departing for 28 off 96 balls. The morning session brought 64 runs off 32 overs, a rate of exactly two an over. The arrival of Dale Benkenstein increased the rate, however, as he batted positively for 22 off 35 balls before a top-edged sweep gave Liam Dawson another catch, this one off the bowling of Imran Tahir.

Ian Blackwell sliced his first ball just over the slips to the boundary, but settled in to play an innings in what has become his regular style these days, deceptively brisk, responsible and without many of the spectacular strokes that made his name as a big hitter earlier in his career. Smith finally fell for 80 (238 balls), trapped lbw by a ball from David Griffiths that kept rather low, a dogged and valuable anchor innings for his team. Phil Mustard joined Blackwell, scoring 32 in a useful partnership of 72 until he was beaten and bowled by a faster ball from Sean Ervine on the stroke of tea. Durham were now 280 for 6.

Perhaps Durham grew a little complacent at this point, as their innings quickly closed after tea. First Callum Thorpewas bowled, playing far too late at a ball from the hard-working James Tomlinson, and then Imran took the final three wickets in quick succession. This included Blackwell for 68 off 85 balls, with nine fours; he was quite bamboozled by a leg-break that took the edge as he groped across his stumps.

The innings closed for 311, with Imran taking five wickets for 85 in his 27 overs. It seemed to be one of those times when a bowler's very erraticism proved to be a virtue, as his best deliveries also contained the element of surprise. But in modern cricket, an attacking spinner deserves all the luck he can get.

Hampshire went in a second time with a deficit of 206, and immediately lost the unfortunate Michael Carberry, who again failed to score, moving too far across his stumps to Graham Onions and being dismissed lbw. Again the team struggled to score. In the eighth over, with just 13 on the board, they suffered a major blow when John Crawley slashed a ball from Steve Harmison hard into the slips, but straight at Smith.

Michael Lumb came out determined to carry the attack to the opposition. He raced to double figures in no time, taking a risk or two along the way and making 32 off 37 balls. Harmison again erred in direction in his opening spell, but now he returned at the other end to produce a lifter that had Lumb - whose opinion was at variance that of the umpire - caught at the wicket; 49 for 3. A single later, the night-watchman Tomlinson was yorked by Thorp, and Hampshire resorted to the dubious tactic of sending in a second night-watchman in David Griffiths. The adhesive Jimmy Adams was still there at the close, with 11 off 60 balls, but Hampshire - or the weather - will have to do something unexpected if they are not to go down to defeat in three days.