Di Venuto helps Durham press home advantage

Durham 380 & 164-2 Sussex 363
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The Independent Online

In the end it has all come down to health. The 56-year-old umpire Nigel Cowley crawled off for a doctor's appointment with "flu-like" symptoms late in the second session.

Sussex have just made public plans to replace the 40-year-old Gilligan Stand, which time has brought to its knees. The rickety edifice finally looks like it is going to be put down at the end of the season. Brighton and Hove City Council is to consider the Sussex application, which includes refurbishment to the pavilion, which will be phase one, later this summer. If the plans are approved work will start at the end of the season. Appropriately, this match appears to be on its last legs. It certainly looked to be crawling to a draw by yesterday's close.

Whether umpire Cowley will be back to officiate by the death is not known. He had been feeling unwell since the first day, and yesterday succumbed well before the tea interval.

Fortunately a substitute official was found. Roger Croft was in the crowd, but he is a qualified umpire who stands in the Surrey Championship Premier League and while John Holder stood at both ends, Mr Croft was able to ensure that the game went on by going from square leg to square leg.

The day had got off to a delayed start thanks to a violent squall. When play did get under way almost an hour and a half late, Sussex wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd duly reached the third hundred of his first-class career, but had it not been for a muscular, unbeaten innings from Damien Wright the home team might not have reduced the first innings deficit to just 17.

Hodd's was an admirable knock for all that, more than three hours of stout resistance which certainly spared Sussex blushes, but when quicker runs were needed it fell to Wright and Ollie Rayner to apply the accelerator.

Wright's effort was a noble one. He suffered a side strain during the Durham first innings and is unlikely to be able to bowl second time around. He will be missed. Sussex discovered that when Michael di Venuto carefully steered things Durham's way.

He gave not a sniff of a chance and although Durham did lose opener Mark Stoneman caught behind off Rayner, and captain Will Smith, run out, Di Venuto and Gordon Muchall got their heads down in an unbroken stand of 97 for the third wicket and an overall lead of 181 for Durham, both batsmen passing 50 for the third time in their last four Championship innings. Whether they can make it tempting enough for Sussex to give chase and set up a thrilling finish is anyone's guess. But there could be a lot of cricket left today.