Injury worries for Durham despite draw
Durham 330 and 46 for 0 drew with Yorkshire 610 for 6 dec
Durham's relief at escaping with a draw from a match in which they were largely outplayed was tempered by news that the injury crisis that has undermined the champions in their second title defence may become deeper still.
Already without Stephen Harmison, Graham Onions, Mitch Claydon and Callum Thorp, who between them took 148 championship wickets in 2009, Durham now face losing Liam Plunkett, who was responsible for another 49.
But their problems do not begin and end with injured bowlers.
Opening batsman Michael Di Venuto, top scorer with 1601 runs last season, could not build on his overnight unbeaten century when play resumed on the last day here because of strained intercostal muscles.
Meanwhile it was revealed that Dale Benkenstein, who batted on Thursday in defiance of a knee injury sustained while fielding on Wednesday, has a detached patella tendon. The former captain was Durham's second most productive batsman last summer, with 1155 runs.
Neither would have batted yesterday except in an emergency and while expectations are that a week's rest should be enough for Di Venuto, obliging him to sit out only the match against Durham UCCE, Benkenstein's prognosis is less clear.
More will be known about Plunkett's prospects once he has undergone a scan on strained ribs. "He has had a similar injury twice before and each time he was out for six weeks," Durham's director of cricket, Geoff Cook, said. "We hope we can nip it in the bud this time.
"It looks like a stress injury. He has carried a tremendous workload recently and was virtually a one-man attack in the last game against Hampshire. Of course he has had to bowl a lot of overs again here."
Durham have recalled Luke Evans from his loan to Northamptonshire and are hopeful, at least, that Harmison and Claydon might be fit to face Nottinghamshire in Durham's next Championship action on May 10.
Thorp, however, faces a longer spell on the sidelines with a hip injury while Onions, who has not played since dropping out of England's tour to Bangladesh with a back problem, has had another setback in his recovery, needing another injection after suffering more pain.
In the circumstances, Cook was clinging on to any positives he could detect after rain at tea consigned this match to a draw.
Durham, who had been four down for 215 overnight, were obliged to follow on for the second time this season, bowled out for 330 in the absence of Di Venuto. They were 46 without loss when the match was abandoned, having sent in their young legspinner, Scott Borthwick, as emergency opener after finishing the first innings unbeaten on 20.
Given that neither Di Venuto nor Benkenstein would have batted except in emergency, whether Durham would have survived another session was a matter for debate.
Yorkshire's two spinners, Adil Rashid and David Wainwright, had not found the help they had been promised from a pitch that remained turgidly solid throughout but there was a clear threat from Tino Best, who showed some versatility to take four of the five wickets to fall.
The West Indian, renowned for hitting the deck hard and using his pace off the pitch, worked out quickly that he needed to bowl a fuller length and look to swing the ball and it paid off in a way that excited his teammates.
He dismissed two batsmen in the space of three deliveries, Ian Blackwell playing on before Phil Mustard edged a catch to the wicketkeeper, swing doing the damage each time. He found late away movement to account for Ben Stokes and ended by flattening Chris Rushworth's stumps for figures of 4-86 from his debut bowl.
Best had a smile on his face afterwards, insisting he had been happy despite being presented with such an unhelpful surface.
"Friday is surfing day in Barbados but I'd rather be here playing cricket at this lovely ground," he said. "I thank God every day for giving me the talent to play cricket and I thank God for blessing Martin (Moxon) with the insight to sign me for Yorkshire.
"It is a privilege to have the chance to play in county cricket and if there were two counties I could have chosen they would have been Surrey because my grandparents are English and are Surrey fans.
"I play to work hard and earn everybody's respect here and I hope that two or three years down the line I can still be playing for Yorkshire."
Yorkshire, certainly, hope to keep him beyond their original aim of using Best merely as a stop-gap before Australia's Ryan Harris became available.
"Tino has impressed me and with there being a doubt now about whether Ryan will be allowed to join us after being picked for Australia's Twenty20 squad we are looking at keeping him for longer," Yorkshire's director of cricket, Martin Moxon, said.