Given Friday's debacle, English cricket needs any good news it can get. So while there was yet more gloom yesterday in the shape of Andrew Strauss's failure for Middlesex against Essex and Michael Vaughan's duck for Yorkshire, a fine performance by Graham Onions for Durham at the Rose Bowl suggested that it is not quite time to call the Ashes off and hand the little urn over in perpetuity.
Onions, who made his Test debut against West Indies in May, took a wicket in the first over of the First Division game against Hampshire when he had Michael Carberry, seeking to pull, caught at third slip by Gordon Muchall. Rain had delayed the start on a brisk morning but Onions looked far from cold, getting the ball to move throughout the first session.
At the other end Stephen Harmison, who may yet appear in the Ashes, kept it tight but it was Onions who looked the likelier to strike and so it proved. After removing Carberry, he added John Crawley (caught in the slips by Michael Di Venuto) and Sean Ervine (caught behind) to complete a spell of 3-19 in 13 overs.
Hampshire were 26-4 (Callum Thorp, Durham's Western Australian medium pacer, had Jimmy Adams caught by Harmison at gully) and in desperate need of a good partnership. It looked to have arrived in the shape of Michael Lumb and Nic Pothas, who guided the home side past 50: unfortunately, Lumb misjudged a yorker to be leg before to Mitchell Claydon. The same man then bowled Liam Dawson for a first-ball duck.
Having finally taken his first wicket of the day – Dominic Cork, caught by Di Venuto – Harmison went up a gear, accounting for Imran Tahir, David Griffiths and Nic Pothas as Hampshire subsided to 105 all out. In response Durham took charge of the match, reaching 84-2 at the close.
The only other top flight game to see any action was at Headingley, where Yorkshire made 58-2 against Sussex in the 31 overs the weather allowed. The most notable moment came four balls into Vaughan's innings, when he was caught by Ollie Rayner from the bowling of Corey Collymore.
One match survived the rain in the Second Division, at Chelmsford, where the England captain Strauss was caught in the slips for 16 when he failed to withdraw his bat from a ball that nipped away from him, bowled by former Middlesex man Chris Wright.
Wright took 4-71 on a grassy wicket that produced a fair bit of movement, but the hero for Essex was David Masters, who claimed 5-65. The visitors ensured it was not one-way traffic when, having been reduced to 139-7, Murali Kartik joined Gareth Berg in the middle. They moved the score along to 238 before Berg was bowled by Masters for 56, but Kartik (62 not out) carried on to see his side to a respectable 274 all out before Essex struggled to 54-4 – of which 31 came from England's Alastair Cook – by stumps.