Lancashire 204 and 59 for 1 trail Durham 291 (Borthwick 64, Collingwood 50, Anderson 3-58) by 28 runs
Some spectators watched one game of cricket and thought about others at Southport. As Paul Collingwood and Paul Coughlin extended Durham's first-innings lead from the slender to the useful a radio relayed England's decline at Lord's to those standing under the willow tree between the Tennis Pavilion and the Indoor School.
Other spectators, who have tickets for Friday's Old Trafford Test, wondered how many of the players on view at Trafalgar Road this ginger-beer and lark-ascending afternoon would also be on view at Manchester. James Anderson? Surely. Ben Stokes? Yes, him too. Scott Borthwick? Well, England's batting did not look at all secure from 200 miles away and Durham's No. 3 certainly exhibited a variety of disciplines in making 64, the highest score of the match so far. "Borthwick's ready to play for England if they want him," Collingwood said later.
Then again, for many of those who filled all the available seats at this tree-ringed ground in one of Southport's most affluent areas, this occasion and these counties were more than sufficient to fill their day. One of the pleasantest additions to this year's county match has been the presence of a good contingent of Durham supporters, who have established a small bastion of north-eastern loyalty under the left of the two balsam poplars by the railway line.
Those travelling fans have had plenty to applaud and they may yet be cheering a victory late on the third day of this match. Having resumed on 88 for 3 in reply to Lancashire's 204, Collingwood's batsmen hewed an 87-run lead against a home attack led by James Anderson, whose three spells from the Harrod Drive End surely extracted enough bounce and movement to satisfy the watching national selector, James Whitaker.
Even a modest Lancashire collapse in their second innings may have depressed the attendance at the third day of this game. But the home side got to the close for the loss of only Tom Smith, who had just a pushed single to his name when he fished at a ball from Graham Onions and feathered a catch to Michael Richardson. Haseeb Hameed and Luke Procter played out the final 20 overs of the day with obvious care yet also a few alarms against the Durham seamers but this pair - Lancashire's odd couple? - are used to batting together in second-team cricket and their unbroken 56-run stand gave home supporters their best watching of the day.
And what was particularly noticeable was that very few people left the ground before the final ball had been bowled. The yellow Merseyrail trains that race to Liverpool four times an hour in summer may have been packed later but it seemed that people were prepared to cope with the odd queue. Even in the last few overs of the day, there was a stillness on the ground and it was broken only by the generous ovation which greeted the returning batsmen in the warm evening. Durham's players were applauded, too. Chris Rushworth's new-ball spell from the Harrod Drive End had offered just as severe an examination of technique as Anderson's had set earlier in the day
So for all that Lancashire loyalists will turn up on the third morning with renewed hope that their side can forge a substantial lead, Durham still have the slightest of advantages in this match. They do so because Borthwick and Stokes weathered the morning attentions of Anderson and because Collingwood, who needed a stitch in split webbing on the first day, added 71 for the seventh wicket with Coughlin early in the afternoon session.
Until Anderson and Jarvis ran through most of the Durham tail with the new ball, the fall of a wicket was an event, not part of an extended sequence. Stokes, who made 21 off 70 balls, was the first to go when his firm front-foot push to Matt Parkinson's first ball of the innings only gave a return catch to the delighted legspinner, who was mobbed by his colleagues. Pale-eyed, scraggy-haired and mortal-hungry for a return to Test cricket, Stokes had applied himself with almost painful concentration but his discipline was matched by that of Borthwick, who departed three overs later when beaten in the flight and bowled by Simon Kerrigan.
Just as the corporate guests were looking forward to their lunchtime starter Richardson was undone by Kyle Jarvis's bounce from the Harrod Drive End to leave Durham on 169 for 6. But the first part of the afternoon's play was controlled by Collingwood, who lifted Kerrigan for six to the right of the press tent and then hooked Anderson over the railway line. At that point the umpires had to find a new ball to replace the new ball. Anderson, though, seemed unlikely to be denied for long and he had the Durham skipper caught behind just three balls after he had reached his fifty and raised his bat to that splendid Shotley Bridge ghetto.
Even then, Durham were not finished. Rushworth and Onions treated Anderson with as little respect as he had been shown all day and the value of their rambunctious 41-run last wicket stand may only be clear when the match is done and the time comes for the Southport and Birkdale's general factotum, Lindsey Bridge, to rally her mighty army for a last clean-up. Most supporters, whatever their allegiances, may be hoping that this duty does not need to be performed before Tuesday afternoon.