Lancashire 265 and 163 for 4 (Chilton 79*, du Plessis 54*) drew with Durham 270 and 320 for 6 dec (Di Venuto 84, Benkenstein 58, Mustard 50*)
Lancashire escaped with a draw against Durham, with the only interference from the weather coming late on the final afternoon, as the rain kept away. Part of the reason was Durham's failure to press home their advantage fully on the third evening, leading to a delayed declaration. But otherwise, both sides batted more competently on the whole in their second innings than the first. In the end, a fine fighting innings by Mark Chilton, helped by Faf du Plessis, saved Lancashire from defeat after a bad start to their second innings.
This was probably due to a combination of factors. To an extent, the batsmen on either side worked out a more effective game plan the second time round, having taken on board lessons from the first innings. The pitch also did not seem to support as much turn and bounce on the last two days. But this may have been due to the one specialist spinner on each side, Gary Keedy and Ian Blackwell respectively, feeling a little tired after getting through such an unaccustomed amount of work first time round. Unfortunately few county teams nowadays carry two experienced specialist spinners, which would certainly have been desirable and quite possibly crucial on such a pitch, a type which is sadly rare in modern English cricket.
Durham began the day on 256 for 5, and immediately showed the positive intent they might profitably have pursued the previous evening. Phil Mustard laid into Gary Keedy's first over, hitting him for two boundaries in his first over, while Dale Benkenstein reached his 50, which due to his laborious batting after tea the previous day took him all of 146 balls. He only added eight, though, before he was run out through a brilliant piece of fielding by his fellow South African, du Plessis, who raced in to field a push by Mustard to midwicket and threw down the wicket with Benkenstein just short of his ground.
Mustard, now in the company of Liam Plunkett, continued the assault, his most spectacular shot being a pull off Stephen Parry over the midwicket boundary for six. He ran to his 50 off 58 balls, at which point Durham declared. They had added 64 runs in ten overs, which only emphasized the time they had wasted the previous evening. They played Keedy in particular much better during the second innings, and this time his 46 overs brought him only two wickets for 107 runs.
Lancashire were set 326 to win in 86 overs, a target they probably never seriously contemplated. Any dreams they might have had of glory were extinguished within a few minutes, however, as for the first time in the match apart from the opening overs of their first innings, the pace bowlers played a significant. Even then, it cannot be said that the bowling was particularly impressive, but rather that the batting was poor. First Paul Horton (3) cut a ball from Graham Onions square, only to see Benkenstein in the gully take a superb low diving catch. Three balls later, Mal Loye played indecisively to a good ball just outside his off stump and edged it to the keeper. Still with only four runs on the board, Parry was suckered out, hooking a bouncer from Callum Thorp straight down the throat of long leg, and Lancashire were facing capitulation.
This was Chilton's moment. He and VVS Laxman saw off the pacemen calmly, which was not too difficult with good judgment and avoidance of unnecessary risk. Laxman (23) went soon after lunch, like Loye nibbling outside the off stump to Onions and gifting the keeper a catch. Du Plessis came in and took root after a little uncertainty, but Chilton was Lancashire's rock against which the Durham bowlers dashed themselves in vain. With Blackwell choosing to do most of his bowling over the wicket into the rough, he was happy to present the broadest of pads, but he was never dour. Briefly he cast aside his chains, reaching his 50 (84 balls) with a handsome four through the covers off Thorp, and followed it with another four and a pulled six in the same over. Then he returned to his valuable watchful game.
Du Plessis, restraining his natural instincts, batted with increasing confidence and judgement, his own 50 taking 103 balls. A draw looked inevitable when at 4.30pm the umpires decided the light was inadequate, a decision that would certainly have caused controversy if the match was in the balance. Play was not resumed, and the two batsmen finished with 79 and 54 respectively, good reward for their sterling efforts.
Faf du Plessis
Durham vs Lancashire
County Championship Division One
England Domestic Season