Cricket: Collingwood's fluency a boon

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The Independent Online
Notts 211 and 144-4 Durham 269

IN THE history of Durham cricket, 1998 will probably not feature very highly but these are heady times for the county from the North-east. Their defeat to Yorkshire in the quarter-final of the Benson and Hedges Cup was a disappointing end to their first ever excursion beyond the group stage and lower mid-table obscurity is a real possibility in the Championship, but it is less the achievements that matter than the manner of them.

The relative merits and disadvantages of signing experienced players can be discussed ad infinitum, but the introduction of David Boon has worked. Forget run tallies and averages, Boon has instilled a much- needed "never say die" attitude in his charges, in short he has made them more Australian.

At 98 for 6 in grey, overcast conditions ideal for swing bowling, the Durham of the past would have weakly succumbed. Yesterday morning they did not and it was due in no small part to a local lad, Paul Collingwood. Stubborn in defence, he was joined by Michael Foster, a large imposing figure with a forthright approach to batting. They added 110 valuable runs despite Paul Strang using six bowlers before lunch to try and force the breakthrough.

A collapse precipitated by two wickets in consecutive deliveries from Chris Tolley left the game evenly poised, but Collingwood was transformed by the arrival of the number 11, Steve Harmison, at the wicket. He raced from 48 to 97 with a flurry of boundaries, one six off Paul Franks endangering the builders on the new Radcliffe Road stand. Unluckily, Collingwood was denied a deserved century by Harmison's dismissal and then had to endure a torrid last session where much of the advantage he had fought for was wasted by thoughtless bowling.

Nottinghamshire were still 43 in arrears when Nick Speak and Usman Afzaal fell to John Wood but Tim Robinson and Graeme Archer feasted on a diet of half-trackers from Harmison.

Nottinghamshire have the leg-spin of Paul Strang to unlock the final Durham innings but being a leg-spinner of attrition rather than a magician, Nottinghamshire will want to set a target of over 300. Anything less could be destroyed by Foster, a clean hitter of immense power who fairly bristles with intent and it was his willingness to attack from adversity in the morning session that unsettled the Nottinghamshire bowlers.

His impact on this match continued in the final overs of the day, this time with the ball, a thin edge by Robinson being gratefully accepted by the wicketkeeper, Martin Speight. With Robinson at the crease and looking well set Nottinghamshire were in the ascendancy, but Durham are no longer easy pickings. The skill was Collingwood's and Foster's but the attitude was all Boon.