Durham turn tables in drawn game
Durham 178 (Benkenstein 62) for 421 for 9 dec (Di Venuto 84, Mustard 85, Plunkett 65, Hoggard 3-45) drew with Yorkshire 313 (Gale 84, Harmison 5-60) and 98 for 4
Seldom has a no-ball proved so costly. On the evening of the third day, when Yorkshire were in a superior position and threatening to sweep away the Durham tail, Rana Naved bowled a yorker that shattered Liam Plunkett's stumps. But the umpire had deemed the delivery illegal - and there followed a record partnership that was to destroy Yorkshire's hopes of gaining their first championship victory of the season, and that against the champions.
Yorkshire still had chances to atone for the bowler's error, but three difficult opportunities were missed. So well did Durham recover that they were able to set Yorkshire a stiff target, and very soon were the only team that could win. It was left to Andrew Gale and Jonathan Bairstow to fend off Durham's bowlers until bad light came to their rescue and the match was drawn.
In the morning Durham resumed at 288 for 7 in weather that was mostly cloudy. Phil Mustard essayed a wild swing outside off stump at the first ball of the day from Matthew Hoggard but, having erased such lunacy from his psyche, settled down to continue his otherwise restrained, sensible innings. He moved from 29 to reach his 50 off 101 balls, while Plunkett continued to play an admirable supporting role. Gradually the balance of the match was shifting again. The Yorkshire bowling was generally tidy but was unable to reproduce the fierce passion of the previous evening, and they found no help in the slow, lifeless pitch. Both batsmen survived difficult slip chances, and Yorkshire grew quite desperate. Tim Bresnan had a couple of wild overs, yielding byes, as the fielding side began to wilt.
As lunch approached, the batsmen began to accelerate anticipating a declaration, and Plunkett hit Adil Rashid for four, six and four off successive balls after Mustard, on 69, had survived a hard chance to mid-off early in the over. They were still together at 395 for 7 at lunch; afterwards they soon set a new eighth-wicket record for Durham - beating their own 143 on the same ground a year ago. But four runs later Mustard's magnificent innings of 85 came to an end, when he miscued a pull and lobbed a return catch to Bresnan. Minutes later Plunkett holed out to mid-off, and Durham declared. Hoggard's three wickets made him Yorkshire's most successful bowler.
Yorkshire's target was 287 in a minimum of 55 overs. On this pitch, the most likely result was clearly a draw - but Steve Harmison appeared to be Durham's wild card. Jacques Rudolph, who has this season developed the trait of being indiscreet against the new ball, set off at a run a ball, against Harmison who was bowling quite well, but with his fires unstoked. Ian Blackwell came on to bowl the tenth over and immediately put a brake on the scoring with two maiden overs. When, in the 15th over, Sayers (14) flicked a simple catch to midwicket, after putting on 47 with Rudolph, it seemed Yorkshire's chances were gradually slipping away.
Durham's prospects took a boost, though, in Plunkett's next over, when Anthony McGrath was beaten by a full-length delivery and adjudged lbw. Durham was now the only team with a realistic chance of winning, as Yorkshire's run rate sagged to below three an over, and their field closed in. The batsmen kept playing positively, though, but Rudolph needed softer hands as he pushed forward at a ball from Blackwell and was snapped up close on the off side - out for 39, and Yorkshire 63 for 3.
They now took tea, and Yorkshire faced an awkward final session, with hopes of victory gone. Adam Lyth (2) was missed by the keeper off Harmison, but it did him no good, as in the next over he was snapped up at short leg. Blackwell, with five close fielders and getting some turn occasionally, seemed transformed into a demon bowler as the Yorkshire batsmen pushed and prodded against him. But Gale and Bairstow, the latter particularly strokeless, did not get out. They hung in with great determination and it looked as though Yorkshire would probably have saved the match anyway, before the umpires brought the players off with just over half an hour to go. But it was small consolation for the team that had the upper hand for most of the four days.
Overall, this match showed why Durham are champions and Yorkshire, although they have a talented team, are still searching for their first victory of the season. Durham, after being outplayed for two days, managed to summon up the grit and determination to fight back and turn the tables on their opponents. Yorkshire, for their part, have shown themselves for the last couple of seasons rarely able to last four days; on a number of occasions they have built strong positions for themselves, but were unable to finish the job.