County Championship round-up: Durham left reeling afterSomerset's youngsters seize chance


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The Independent Online

Durham, who began the season among the favourites for the Championship, continued their troubled start by being bowled out for 125 by an injury-hit Somerset side containing five players aged 20 or under yesterday.

Put in to bat at Chester-le-Street, Durham collapsed from 90 for 3 to 125 all out in the space of 9.3 calamitous overs, many of the dismissals of their own-making in a succession of poor shots, albeit in conditions that favoured the bowlers.

Durham were without Dale Benkenstein and Ben Stokes, who was having a pain-killing injection aimed at helping him overcome the back injury that has caused him to miss this week's England Lions match.

Yet Somerset are so badly hit by injuries and absences that they have only 11 senior players available. Marcus Trescothick, Jos Buttler, Steve Kirby, Gamaal Hussain and Adam Dibble are all injured. Nick Compton, who has started the season in prolific batting form, is with the Lions.

The bulk of the damage was inflicted by 20-year-old Craig Meschede and 18-year-old Craig Overton, who took 4 for 38 in 16 overs in only his second first-class match.

Graham Onions reduced Somerset to 6 for 2 with wickets in his first and third overs and the visitors struggled to 95 for 5 but the South African-born Meschede then pitched in with a half-century with the bat as he and Craig Kieswetter put Somerset in control.

At Trent Bridge, the flurry of wickets anticipated when Nottinghamshire opener Neil Edwards became a first-ball victim for Middlesex's Steven Finn failed to materialise as Alex Hales and Michael Lumb compiled an unbroken stand of 132 before rain intervened, limiting play to 42 overs.

Finn, who might have been rested had the weather not limited his bowling opportunities against Worcestershire last week, bowled at times with real menace on an essentially easy-paced pitch but could find any further success. Hales, who made three centuries last season and was given his Lions debut, has slipped down the pecking order among the up-and-coming England qualified batsmen but took the opportunity to impress James Whitaker, the selector in attendance, with an unbeaten 71 containing 13 fours.

Only 26 overs were possible at New Road, where Kevin Pietersen is making a rare appearance in the Championship, as Worcestershire reached 58 without loss. A mere 9.4 overs were bowled at Chelmsford, but it was enough for Kent to slump to 17 for 5 against Essex.