Di Venuto hundred halts Yorkshire hopes
Durham 215 for 4 v Yorkshire 610 for 6 dec
With the £21 million Carnegie Pavilion now dominating the skyline at the Kirkstall Lane end, the new look to another Test ground in the throes of transformation takes some getting used to. It is an imposing structure with futuristic lines, although the choice of colours is worryingly reminiscent of a 1970s bathroom. Anyone who shudders at the thought of avocado green will know what I mean.
The backdrop of steady rain that cut short the cricket was more familiar sadly, if not this season. How blessed the Championship has been, as the momentum for change gathers pace, to have been granted the weather these last few weeks in which to show its true worth.
But it would have been fanciful to expect to get through April without seeing days more typical of an English spring and the intervention of rain here mid-afternoon has probably guaranteed a draw, barring a collapse by Durham to rival their fledgling days as a first-class county.
It will not happen. Yorkshire built a massive first-innings total with hopes of bowling the champions out twice but may not do so even once on the evidence of today. Then again, perhaps a draw was always at the back of their strategic thought patterns. Yorkshire have seized the incentive of extra win points with as much gusto as anyone but will still appreciate the merits of denying an immediate rival and if they are to make a fist of challenging for the title then Durham are likely to be their biggest threat.
Even so, there were still some spectators wondering whether they had taken their domination of the first two days just a little too far, insisting as they did on having more than 600 runs in the bank before they gave Durham chance to reply. It took them until after tea on Wednesday, which meant Durham had spent the longest time continuously in the field since they joined the Championship, longer even than when Brian Lara made 501 against them.
To win, Yorkshire were banking on an attack without Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad bowling Durham out twice on a pitch that has been largely slow and placid, a surface on which even Tino Best, for all his desire to make an impact on his county debut, has struggled to look menacing. A cautious approach from Will Smith's side would probably have got the job done in any event, even without half a day's play lost.
The disappointment for Yorkshire, though, is that the bowlers on whom they will rely until Bresnan and Shahzad return managed to dislodge only Dale Benkenstein in the time available, and that after Adil Rashid had taken two wickets with consecutive googlies the evening before, suggesting that the two spinners, Rashid and David Wainwright, might be a real handful.
But in the event, nothing they or the seamers could conjure up would deny Michael Di Venuto the 51st first-class century of his career. The Australian will now attempt to match Yorkshire's Jacques Rudolph's marathon occupation of the crease and ensure that his 13th century for Durham home side becomes the basis for another day of frustration for the home side.
Yorkshire lead by 395 runs but the 16 wickets still required is the relevant statistic, and there has not been much evidence that taking them is within this attack's capabilities in these conditions. Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Steve Patterson, in the vanguard of the new generation of Yorkshire seam bowlers, both bowled well at times but against batsmen as wordly as Di Venuto and Benkenstein it was not enough.
Benkenstein's knee, injured when he ran out Anthony McGrath on Wednesday, did not appear to cause him serious difficulty. His departure came just after lunch, when Wainwright, the left-arm spinner, produced an excellent ball to have him stumped. But with Ian Blackwell now alongside Di Venuto, he and his teammates will need to deliver a lot more of those.