Lancashire v Durham, Old Trafford, 1st day August 11, 2009

Keedy's six-for restricts Durham

John Ward at Old Trafford

Lancashire 0 for 0 trail Durham 270 (Di Venuto 53, Keedy 6-85) by 270 runs

A comparatively rare "result" pitch and some fine spin bowling by Gary Keedy, who took six Durham wickets for 85 runs the day after being named in the England Lions team, forced Durham to struggle on their opening day at Old Trafford, in front of a crowd numbering almost two thousand. After a good opening stand, their batting fell away, although eight of their men did reach double figures, and the seriously weakened home team will have been both happy and relieved at the close.

Durham won what may prove to be an important toss, and decided to bat. The weather at that time was generally overcast, but it decided to favour the visitors by clearing the sky and revealing the sun for much of the afternoon. Durham were denied the services of Steve Harmison and Paul Collingwood, but Graham Onions was allowed to play.

Lancashire naturally lacked James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff, but their pace attack was severely weakened by injury, the latest casualty being Sajid Mahmood with an intercostal problem. They had to borrow Tom Lungley on loan from Derbyshire, and had their usual reserves Kyle Hogg and Oliver Newby to take the new ball. The cynic might suggest that this was why a spinning pitch was prepared, with the left-armer Keedy the only experienced bowler available.

Hogg and Newby began with a maiden over apiece, but then Michael Di Venuto pulled the former for two successive fours and Durham were under way. Newby was the better of the two, although expensive, every now and then beating Mark Stoneman with a good ball that moved away from him, but without finding the edge. On 21 Stoneman sliced a ball from Hogg uppishly between slips and gully for four, while in contrast Di Venuto was in his element. He cruised to 50 off 47 balls without even breaking sweat, and in the process passed 1000 Championship runs for the season.

Keedy only came on to bowl after an hour and ten minutes, and this proved to be an error on the part of Lancashire, for from that point on it was a different ball game. He found turn right from the start, as Stoneman discovered when he tried to punch an off-side ball off the back foot, only to find it turning in sharply and trapping him lbw for 33. Di Venuto also found Keedy quite a different proposition: his runs dried up, and he responded with a hard but uppish drive that was well taken low at mid-off. He was gone for 53, and his last three runs had taken him 21 balls. Durham went to lunch on 107 for 2.

Durham managed well for a while after the interval, with Will Smith dropping anchor and Gordon Muchall showing more aggression, hitting Keedy for an effortless straight six. They added 61 before Muchall, with 39 of these, moved too far across his stumps and was trapped lbw by Lungley.

Lancashire now tightened their grip, Keedy being joined by his fellow left-arm spinner, Stephen Parry. The scoring slowed; Smith was never fluent and he was almost run out in a mix-up over an unlikely single, but escaped thanks to a poor throw from Francoise du Plessis, who had earlier done some superb fielding at backward point. Finally he was caught at the wicket for a laborious 26 off 101 balls, trying to cut Parry and being caught at the wicket.

Only Ian Blackwell, briefly, caused the bowlers much concern after this. He took his time to watch a few balls and the pitch, and then hit Keedy for two sixes in three balls, one a drive over long-on and then a massive swing to cow corner. But he lost two partners before tea: Dale Benkenstein (16) never looked in touch and a thick edge was taken in the gully off Keedy, while Phil Mustard (7) was caught bat-pad off Parry on the stoke of the interval.

Blackwell disappointed after the break, pushing forward to a ball from Parry to be caught at silly mid-off. The close fielders were having an exciting day, as there were also several hard shots that they inadvertently fielded with their torsos. But the fight had not gone from Durham, and Liam Plunkett and Callum Thorp dropped anchor, grafted for their runs and in the end forced Lancashire to take the second new ball.

But no wicket fell and Keedy returned after eight overs. The spinner finally got his man, Thorp popping up a catch in the leg-trap for 32 of a stand of 56. Onions was also caught at short leg without scoring off Lungley, and finally Plunkett (28), trying to hit Keedy for six, skied a catch backward of point, so that Durham were all out for 270. The last three wickets fell for a single.

A light shower ended play after Lancashire had faced five balls without scoring. Although Lancashire will be pleased to have dismissed their powerful opponents comparatively cheaply, the true state of the match cannot be assessed until Lancashire have batted on their own "result" pitch.