Nottinghamshire arrived at Chester-le-Street on Tuesday to be greeted by the news that the Ashington Express was out of commission, a foot injury being responsible for keeping Steve Harmison in the sidings, together with the long suffering Graham Onions. Unfortunately for the county champions elect, they had to contend with a Durham speed machine – a son of the pioneering railway town of Stockton-on-Tees – who was back in slick working order yesterday. Well, for most of the second day, at any rate.
Mark Davies has endured a season of familiar frustration. Plagued by injuries throughout his career, the England Lions seamer failed to take a wicket in Durham's opening three championship games, then underwent an ankle operation before returning to duty in the rain-ruined fixture at Taunton last week. He was still without a wicket yesterday morning, when Nottinghamshire came in to bat after finishing off the reigning champions for 372 in a first innings that had promised much more (Phil Mustard went for 120 and Scott Borthwick for a career-best 68 as Durham added just 25 to their overnight score of 347 for 6).
Mitch Claydon was first to strike for the hosts, the native Sydneysider inviting Samit Patel to plop a gimme of a catch into the arms of Borthwick at deep extra cover in the opening over. Then Davies stepped up to show the kind of class that earned him a call up as cover for James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom on England's tour to South Africa last winter.
Alex Hales might have struck 52 off one over playing for a WG Grace XI at Lord's as a 16-year-old but Davies had the 6ft 5in Notts opener on the back foot from the off. The 29-year-old Teessider also had him out for 13, Hales pushing forward and edging a catch behind to Phil Mustard. In his 119th over of the season, Davies finally had his first wicket. His six-over spell before lunch featured five maidens and came at a cost of just three runs.
It had Notts pinned down but they slowly recovered, Mark Wagh and Adam Voges putting on 48 before the former was skittled by Liam Plunkett for 30. Voges then enjoyed a partnership of 76 with Ali Brown before Davies bowled the Australian for 48.
Just as Davies was hitting his straps, he departed to the pavilion for physiotherapy treatment. In 15 overs, he bowled 11 maidens and claimed his two wickets for a measly 10 runs. "It looks like Mark might not play any more part in the game," Geoff Cook, Durham's head coach, reported later. "He's got a new injury – something to do with his sciatic nerve."
Before stumps,Notts also lost Brown for 52 and captain Chris Read for 58 but had pushed on to 257 for 6. That meant that Read and his side had two batting points to add to the third one they gained on the bowling front in the morning – stretching their lead at the top of the First Division to 21.