MAYBE the South Africans will fondly remember Chester-le-Street as the place where their tour at last got off the ground. After a mixture of bad weather, contrivance and non-cooperation, they were greeted yesterday by blazing sunshine and a dry, hard pitch which was not without pace and bounce, especially when the ball was new.
Not all their bowling was as straight as they would have wished, which might be put down to either rustiness or over-enthusiasm. But Fanie de Villiers, swinging the ball at a healthy pace, looked a class act and Brian McMillan, hitting the pitch hard as well as moving the ball around, seemed to envious English eyes a more than useful third seamer who can bat.
It was all too much for Durham, who batted unevenly after a miserably unlucky start had deprived them of Wayne Larkins and John Morris, two stroke players who would have taken on De Villiers and Co and might - just might - have given the capacity crowd of 4,000 something to remember.
Larkins had to retire from the fray when the first ball of the match from Allan Donald (and a no ball at that) badly bruised his left wrist. An X-ray revealed nothing broken, but it will be a surprise if he reappears.
It was De Villiers who broke through, though John Morris looked aggrieved to be adjudged lbw. Well he might, for he was well forward and the ball had been swinging. When Jimmy Daley received, as his first ball, a useful one of full length from which he was caught at slip, it may well have proved a point.
All this left Durham's immediate future in the hands of Graeme Fowler. With only one championship innings behind him this season, he began with so much playing and missing that when he eventually middled one he received a round of applause (duly acknowledged) which was not entirely sympathetic. He then embarked on a typical Fowler innings that owed much to guts, resilience and sheer bloody-mindedness rather than elegance.
He scraped his way to 68 and it needed a half-century from 85 balls by Chris Scott to lift Durham past 200, though they knew that was inadequate on this pitch, as Andrew Hudson's half-century, from 56 balls, amply illustrated.Reuse content