Notts v Durham, County Championship, Division One, 1st day May 10, 2010

Shreck shines in the gloom

Jon Culley

Durham 79 for 3 v Nottinghamshire

Durham twice beat Nottinghamshire by an innings last season and with Steve Harmison belatedly ready to begin his new campaign they might fancy themselves to knock the home side's confidence a little after their blistering start.

Unfortunately, the return to fitness of Harmison after his back trouble has coincided with the loss of Mark Davies, whose ankle injury makes him the 10th Durham player to be hurt with the season little more than a month old.

Harmison's well-being has to be taken slightly on trust. He barely bowled in Durham's weather-hit match against Durham UCCE last week and sent down six fairly gentle overs in their Clydesdale Bank 40 defeat at Edgbaston on Sunday. There are question marks, too, over Liam Plunkett after he suffered a side injury against Yorkshire two weeks ago. Plunkett is expected to bowl but his county know he could face a long spell out if he breaks down again.

In the meantime, they must give Harmison and company something to defend after a stop-start opening day reduced to 27.2 overs. The weather could not have been more frustrating after the forecast suggested a largely dry day. Morning drizzle persisted until early afternoon and then bad light forced more stoppages.

Nottinghamshire look credible challengers in the battle to loosen Durham's grip on the Championship. They have won their first three games and a victory over the title-holders would make them favourites to win their first crown in five years with most pundits outside Yorkshire. In the circumstances, it was probably to Durham's relief that the weather intervened given that they lost three wickets in the first 12 overs after Nottinghamshire put them in.

Darren Pattinson and Charlie Shreck exploited the overcast conditions effectively, although Kyle Coetzer could not blame swing or seam for his dismissal, driving Shreck confidently only for Paul Franks to take a superb catch at mid-off, diving forward and to his left.

There was frustration for Pattinson when Mark Wagh dropped a catch at square leg as Michael di Venuto clipped the ball away in the air but the miss cost only six runs as the Australian's drive was pouched by Samit Patel at gully.

Shreck accounted for Will Smith, the Durham captain, whose hopes of a confidence-building score ended when he pushed tentatively at a ball outside off stump and was caught comfortably by Chris Read behind the stumps.

From 36-3, Durham recovered to 79 without further loss at the premature close, although Ian Blackwell had an escape on 10 when he almost played on to Shreck. He and Dale Benkenstein now look critical to Durham's prospects if they are to dampen Nottinghamshire's fire.