Borthwick's batting the evolving skill

Durham 348 for 7 (Borthwick 169*, Stokes 85, Collingwood 59, Murtagh 4-91) v Middlesex

The English Warne, many people were desperate to call him. But after Scott Borthwick had been dispatched around the SCG by Australia's gung-ho batsmen England realised they did not have a spinning sensation on their hands. Not that day anyway.

But they may soon have to consider him again as a handy batsman. Here Borthwick regained form - this was his first score above 25 for a month - and continued to build a second successive healthy season with the bat with his second century of the year; the first also came against Middlesex back in June. His runs in 2013 helped Durham to the title but this year they have been equally as valuable at the other end of the table. This innings rescued his side from a slippery start and held the day together as Middlesex threatened a fightback with the second new ball.

Paul Collingwood also ensured his side made good use of excellent batting conditions - a 49-yard boundary towards the Tavern Stand helped the day's scoring rate stay above three-and-a-half an over - and became Durham's highest run-scorer in first-class cricket.

But it was Borthwick who dominated the day. Consensus seemed to favour England persisting with Borthwick to unearth the most sought-after discipline in international cricket. But after averaging 109.00 with the ball on England Lions' tour of Sri Lanka and 12 wickets at 59.00 in the Championship this summer Borthwick's potential value has slipped considerably.

He has grown into a functional No. 3 batsman but without the offer of some longed-for legspin, it is difficult at the moment to plot a route back to higher honours for him. He is yet to show either the jazziness of a James Vince or the longevity of a Gary Ballance to enter consideration for either white or red-ball cricket as a specialist batsman. But he is building his case, even if he may never be England's dream spinner.

Despite struggling with the ball for England Lions over the winter, he averaged over 50 with the bat, building on over 1000 runs in 2013, and topping his county's averages in Durham's Championship triumph. This season he also possesses Durham's best average (of players with more than 10 matches) and the runs have kept the bottom two places of the Division One table at arm's length.

The defending champions still have work to do to ensure they do not surrender their crown with the ignominy of relegation. But a 12-point advantage and a game in hand over Lancashire, plus the fillip of reaching a Lord's final should see them survive. Particularly if they can build on their solid first day against Middlesex who began the round level on points with their opponents and without a four-day win since the middle of May.

Borthwick led an afternoon recovery after Durham were swung into early trouble by Tim Murtagh. Three wickets came in the opening seven overs - Keaton Jennings the first to fall, to the second ball of the match. The 10.30 start did not help the visitors. But as Borthwick steered Durham deeper into the morning session, the decision to bat first looked sound. The wicket played well and Middlesex found little from their back-up bowlers. They were a touch short and the two left-handers, Borthwick and Ben Stokes, largely angled their way to a century stand after lunch.

Stokes was more prepared to pull than Borthwick and gamely took on Steven Finn in perhaps the best passage of play of the day. Finn recovered from a poor start to provide more of a threat in his second and third spells but it was not until the second new ball that he struck - trapping Gordon Muchall lbw for a fifth-ball duck. It was the second of three wickets after the 80-over mark that had Middlesex feeling better about the day.

Well before then, Borthwick ventured forward to drive Finn down to the Tavern and next ball got a thick edge past gully to third man to raise his century in 170 balls with 15 boundaries. In the last knockings of the day he heaved Toby Roland-Jones into the Mound Stand.

Stokes was comfortably closing in on his own century. The conviction has returned to his strokeplay, plain for all to see during his sensational 164 in the Royal London Cup semi-final on Saturday. He was 85 before a moment's hesitation against the steady medium pace of Neil Dexter drew a thin edge behind. Stokes peeled himself back to the pavilion. The wicket ended a fourth-wicket stand of 176 at 3.70 an over to set up Durham's day.

Collingwood followed with a confident innings and almost raised another century stand with Borthwick. He lined up Murtagh to paddle-sweep a four and a three in consecutive balls on his way to a brisk 59 and overtook Dale Benkenstein as the leading first-class run-scorer for Durham with 9077.

  • Durham safe, Middlesex edgy

    Durham could now finish as high as fourth, after closing out a crushing win over Middlesex having entered this round in a relegation scrap

  • Captain Fantastic lifts Durham again

    This match turned into relegation scrap on the third day with small advances from both sides. Fluent batting was at a premium as a significant canopy of cloud encouraged the Middlesex bowlers.

  • Durham's bowlers keep digging deep

    Durham produced a solid all-round bowling display to secure a first innings lead of 101 as they moved closer to securing their Division One place

  • Borthwick's batting the evolving skill

    After Scott Borthwick had been dispatched around the SCG by Australia's gung-ho batsmen England realised they did not have a spinning sensation on their hands. Not that day anyway

Middlesex 4th innings Partnerships

1st4CJL RogersSD Robson
2nd44DJ MalanSD Robson
3rd31EJG MorganDJ Malan
4th4NJ DexterDJ Malan
5th18JA SimpsonDJ Malan
6th25DJ MalanPR Stirling
7th13OP RaynerDJ Malan
8th61OP RaynerTS Roland-Jones
9th32TJ MurtaghOP Rayner
10th22TJ MurtaghST Finn