Coetzer enjoys opening bid

Durham 329-3 MCC
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The Independent Online

The English domestic season opened here yesterday with a pink ball and floodlit afternoon and evening sessions in the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, but it did nothing for MCC's attack as Durham, the champion county, made a solid if slow start.

Michael Di Venuto and Kyle Coetzer both scored centuries as bat dominated pink ball. Di Venuto hit a sprightly 131 and Coetzer a more stately 123 not out as Durham made easy progress.

The flat wicket and serene batting conditions, rather than the colour of the ball, can take much of the credit for that, though. Gloucestershire seamer Jon Lewis was handed first use of the ball and promptly beat the bat with the fourth delivery of the match but there was little else to worry the openers as Di Venuto began positively. Alex Gidman, MCC's captain, turned quickly to the spin of James Middlebrook but he was soon dispatched for six over long-on as Di Venuto eased towards the first fifty of the season, a mark he reached after 89 balls.

The lights came on just after the break, perhaps a little early with the natural light still more than adequate. The ICC, which has its headquarters in neighbouring Dubai, hopes to introduce floodlights to the Test game. The change of conditions made little difference to Di Venuto and Coetzer, the former continuing to take the lion's share of the bowling and peppering the boundary accordingly.

MCC looked understandably downcast in the field, with a lively Steve Kirby appeal against Di Venuto the closest anyone got to animation before the batsman was stumped by James Foster off Middlebrook. Di Venuto had scored 131 of his side's 181.

Coetzer eventually passed fifty, while captain Will Smith came and went for 13 before chipping Middlebrook to Scott Newman, who juggled the catch. Dale Benkenstein was busy at the crease, working his way to 41 before losing his stumps to Dean Cosker's spin. By that time Coetzer, who scored just one first-class century last season, had finally nudged his way to a hundred, a feat which required 194 deliveries.