Durham 401-5 Kent: Muchall's 193 puts Durham in command

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An unbeaten career-best 193 by Gordon Muchall made Durham's return to the top flight of the County Championship a pleasant affair against Kent here yesterday.

The five-and-a-half hours he has spent at the crease thus far have been a model of accumulation and domination with the bat. Muchall was only 17 and two years from making his first-class debut the last time Durham were in the First Division, since when they have languished in the lower reaches of the Second Division. Until last season that is.

Yesterday Muchall made it clear there is a determination in the newly promoted side. But they will need as many runs as they can muster here, because they are without a clutch of first-choice bowlers. Steve Harmison has a shin injury, Mick Lewis, their Australian quickie pulled out late with a hamstring problem, Mark Davis has a stress fracture of the back, while Liam Plunkett and Paul Collingwood have been told to rest by the England coach, Duncan Fletcher.

It was, therefore, imperative to pile up the runs after winning the toss and opting to bat on a slowish pitch. But things did not really take off for Durham until Muchall and Gary Pratt joined forces for the third wicket, the captain, Jon Lewis, and the Australian Jimmy Maher having departed with barely fifty on the board.

Muchall, 23, a talented schoolboy rugby player, was the more wary having edged his first ball low through the slip cordon which earned him the first of his 30 boundaries. He battled the conditions and the Kent attack well until half an hour before lunch when he and Pratt suddenly let rip, scoring at six an over for 16 overs either side of the interval as they piled up a stand of 118.

Pratt, who did not play a single Championship match last season, reached his fifty but was then bowled by Min Patel, but Muchall carried on, able to call on a variety of shots, most notable being a savage pull.

The sixth hundred of his career arrived just before tea and an hour later he passed 150 for the first time. He wrapped things up by pulling the last ball of the day to the boundary for his 30th four, bringing up maximum batting points and moving within touching distance of a double century .