Thorp's five skittles Warwickshire
Durham 173 for 4 (Benkenstein 59*) lead Warwickshire 135 (Thorp 5-49) by 38 runs
With two divisions in the county championship, there are not many one-sided games, but the encounter between struggling Warwickshire and rampant Durham, even with their two top bowlers on Test duty, looked that way even before it began. However, it did not deter 1709 spectators turning out, and they saw their team move into the lead before the close of the first day. Dale Benkenstein shone with both bat and ball, while the seamer Callum Thorp and batsmen Michael Di Venuto and Ian Blackwell also played major parts in their team's success.
From the beginning, Warwickshire never really looked like presenting Durham with a challenging total. Matt Claydon got away with a rather erratic opening over, which was a maiden, but thereafter bowled well. Mark Davies suffered a back spasm and had to leave the field after bowling only two overs, but Thorp, who took over, turned this into good news for Durham by moving the ball in to trap the struggling Ian Westwood lbw for 5. The pitch was rather slow, but the seam bowlers always found some movement and they were always more than a handful for the visiting batsmen.
Jim Troughton joined Ant Botha, and the two added 30 for the second wicket - which was to prove equal to the largest partnership of the innings. He then fell for 14, in a virtually identical manner of dismissal to that of his captain. Botha was always struggling, scoring 23 out of 70 off 78 balls before Benkenstein came on to bowl his occasional medium-pacers. This was a master move, as he pitched the ball well up and quickly had Botha, trying to break the shackles, caught at short midwicket. On the stroke of lunch the new batsman, Tim Ambrose, was caught at the wicket off a ball that moved away, leaving Warwickshire 70 for 4 at the interval. Immediately afterwards, Tony Frost chased a ball moving away, another catch for the keeper, and then Benkenstein was taken off after his spell of eight overs for three wickets and 20 runs.
The quicker bowlers took over, with Thorp the best of them, as he kept the ball well up and moved it deceptively. He broke the 30-run partnership for the sixth wicket between Rikki Clarke and Ateeq Javid, getting the latter in a tangle and having him lbw for 8. Claydon at the other end concentrated more on pace and did make a few fly: he bowled a superb delivery to Chris Woakes that flew from the pitch and moved away, catching the edge of the bat on its way to the keeper.
Clarke was the only batsman in the team who really looked capable, on this day's form, of troubling Durham. He played a couple of good pulls and then the shot of the innings, a superbly timed straight drive for four off Thorp. The bowler struck back in the end, though, with his fourth successful lbw shout, the ball moving in again sharply to trap Clarke lbw for 32. It came off 63 balls and he was the only batsman of the innings to exceed a scoring rate of 50 - marginally.
The tail followed the trend set by the top order and contributed little, the most notable dismissal being that of Naqaash Tahir; Liam Plunkett, replacing Claydon, made the ball fly from the pitch and off the batsman's gloves into the slips. The innings closed for a very mediocre 135, and the teams took an early tea. Thorp took a creditable 5 for 49 in 20 overs.
When Durham batted, it was a different ball game from the start. Boyd Rankin paid the penalty for a wayward first over: Di Venuto slashed his first two deliveries square for four and then nicked the third to the fine-leg boundary. He continued on his merry way while his partner Mark Stoneman struggled to 3 before being beaten and caught at the wicket off a good ball from Woakes. This was in the ninth over - by which time his intrepid partner had reached 40 out of a total of 43.
This wicket had a remarkable effect on the play. Di Venuto's runs suddenly dried up, and three overs later, without the addition of another run, he was surprised by a rising ball from Tahir, which had him caught at the wicket off the gloves. He made 40 off 35 balls, with eight fours.
This is exactly the type of situation that often determines the destiny of matches. Warwickshire were on the point of fighting back: could Durham recover or would the bowlers now break through the middle order? Need you ask, with Durham in their 2009 brand of confidence? It didn't happen immediately. Rankin had the dogged Will Smith caught in the slips for 16, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul fell into the trap laid for him, mistiming a pull to leg gully without scoring in his first match of the season for Durham.
Then came Ian Blackwell. He pulled his second ball to the boundary and raced to 22 off his first nine balls. His powerful yet easy stroke play inspired Benkenstein - who had been by no means a slouch up to then - to join the party and add some boundaries of his own. In no time Durham had shot past Warwickshire's meagre total at a gallop. After a while the adrenalin declined and they settled down to erect a major stand. Benkenstein reached his 50 off 68 balls and Blackwell was close by the close. The normal script, if it is adhered to, says victory in three days.