Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Durham 391 for 9 dec (Lees 129, Young 124, Briggs 4-93) beat Warwickshire 87 (Raine 5-9, Wood 3-28) and 177 (Carse 5-49) by an innings and 127 runs
The funfair arrived in Chester-le-Street this week. If they glimpse its gaudy attractions as they travel home this evening Warwickshire's cricketers might think them an exercise in irony, the last insult from the worst three days of their season so far. Their innings defeat had looked likely since they collapsed on the first day and Durham's openers showed them how to bat on a pitch that was testing but never the haunt of vipers Will Rhodes' batters thought it. Nevertheless, the lights and those bloody waltzers were the final insult.
From the upper floors of the Riverside one could see the Ferris wheel, nothing as grand as the London Eye, mark you, but a couple of classes above the one featured in the 1949 film The Third Man. Until Friday morning there were no carriages attached and one wondered if, in keeping with the North East's reputation for toughness, customers were supposed to hang from the struts. It might have been rather tricky for Harry Lime to give Holly Martins a tutorial in his moral philosophy had those been the conditions in post-war Vienna. But wait, I was going to tell you about Carse, Brydon Carse…
The evening session ended with Carse leading his team off the field after taking five wickets, three of them rather easy ones, when the game was up. Earlier, though, he had removed Sam Hain and Matt Lamb in a lively spell from the Lumley End. So he and everyone else will have received plaudits and pints.
Yes, this was a lovely day and a lovely match for Durham and who will say they do not deserve their time of jubilee? Even their first reverse of the morning prompted a standing ovation. For after 500 minutes' unobtrusive and quietly magnificent resistance Alex Lees was caught by Tim Bresnan for 129 when he couldn't get his bat out of the way of a lifting delivery and the nick was parried to first slip by Michael Burgess. Three wickets then fell in less than an half an hour, two of them to Danny Briggs, but this was something a trade-off, given that both Ben Raine and Carse whacked the slow left-armer into the stands. And Carse continued his resistance after Raine had flat-batted a return catch to Briggs. He added exactly 50 with Wood, a partnership that took the lead past 300, although by the time Wood was bowled by Briggs the batters were swiping at most things, Carse was unbeaten on 40 and the lead was 304.
The declaration gave Warwickshire's openers a rather smelly 20 minutes before lunch and their noses were not up to it. The fifth ball of Wood's second over kept low and brought Rhodes to his knees, unsurprising when the thing's coming down at about 90mph. The next delivery was maybe even quicker and of full length. Warwickshire's unsettled skipper played a loose drive and nicked a catch to David Bedingham at first slip.
What the visitors needed after lunch was exactly what they had required in their first innings: a long partnership between two of their established batters. What they received was Russell Warren's finger in the second over after the resumption when Hanuma Vihari pushed slightly forward to his second delivery only for the ball to hit his pad. He thus became Chris Rushworth's 500th wicket in County Championship cricket. The task of salvaging something from the fast accumulating wreckage fell to Rob Yates and Sam Hain…
I am sitting out in one of the deserted stands at the Riverside. Seated areas at cricket grounds across England are similarly bare. Hain and Yates are batting well but runs are coming at less than two-an-over. It seems clear that Warwickshire will need to bat another three sessions to clear their arrears. If this day runs its full course there will be 612 balls bowled and 612 responses from the batters. I am struck once again by cricket's complexity and feel no need to apologise for it.
But it is not the state of the game that commands my attention. Rather it is the cries of the players and the complete absence of complementary applause or comment. In three weeks' time I should be at either The Oval or Bristol and there will be spectators. Until then the players must encourage themselves. But it is a fair question: who can the players entertain when there is no one in a ground? Then Yates punches Carse to the midwicket boundary. Even after a year of this stuff I wait for some sign of appreciation. There is a single cry of encouragement from the away balcony. Otherwise, silence. The Ferris wheel turns in the funfair. Sunlight. Carse returns to his mark. A quiet that lasts long seconds.
The relative stability Yates and Hain brought to Warwickshire's innings lasted barely 90 minutes. After batting for nearly two hours for his 34, Yates was defeated by Rushworth's bounce and Scott Borthwick took the catch at second slip. On the point of tea Hain had no price when a ball from Carse reared off a length and Bedingham did the necessary. Early in the evening session Lamb played inside a ball from Carse and lost his off stump. Warwickshire were 93 for 5 and no one gave a cuckoo-clock for their chances.
They were right. The end came fairly quickly after tea as only Bresnan showed any taste for the fight. Carse took three wickets in 15 balls and at one stage looked as though he might end the game with a hat-trick. Instead he had to settle for five wickets, a chorus of "Blaydon Races" and a day off. One doubts he will be complaining. The same may not be said for Rhodes' cricketers but they would be sagely advised to watch a recording of Lees's innings. It was a master class.
There will be celebrations both in and near the Riverside tonight. For one thing there is the funfair; for another, this town has long had a reputation for enjoying its Saturday nights. That may be so… but then I never knew the old Chester-le-Street before the war with its folk music, its glamour and easy charm…