Durham driven to distraction by Lyth's good run

Yorkshire 304-2 Durham
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It might not necessarily have been wise, given that they were the bookies' favourites to be relegated before the season began, for Yorkshire to be talking up their title prospects immediately before meeting Durham, but if there were a good time to have the defending champions in town then it is probably right now.

Durham's win over Hampshire last week signalled that Will Smith's side are not exactly there for the taking but they will hope not to pick from many squads as thin on bowling resources as the current one.

Nigel Kent, the Durham physio, has seldom been so busy. In the last few days he has been treating Stephen Harmison and Graham Onions, both still handicapped by back problems, and Mitch Claydon, who has abdominal strain. He gained a new patient yesterday when Callum Thorp suffered a strain during the warm-up.

Durham had to call up 23-year-old seamer Chris Rushworth for his first-class debut in place of Claydon, and turned to leg-spinner Scott Borthwick, only just 20, to fill in for Thorp, reasoning that a slow, dry surface would probably suit the slower bowlers as the match evolved. Yorkshire also named two spinners in Adil Rashid and David Wainwright.

Rushworth took seven wickets for Sunderland in league cricket on Saturday and made his senior competitive debut for Durham in Sunday's 129-run 40-overs win over Hampshire, taking 2 for 29 from seven overs. He has not yet claimed his maiden first-class wicket but looked dangerous at times, particularly with the second new ball.

The day belonged squarely to Yorkshire, however. Ian Blackwell, taking with skill and enthusiasm to the role of front-line spinner, bowled superbly, taking the only two wickets. Yet a flat, unresponsive pitch gave Durham's seamers nowhere to hide and allowed Adam Lyth and Jacques Rudolph in particular to indulge themselves.

Liam Plunkett in particular was inclined to feed Lyth's appetite for driving through the covers but the left-hander's strokeplay was nevertheless sublime. His half-century contained 11 fours, most despatched imperiously through the off side off the front and the back foot.

It was only when Blackwell joined the attack after an hour and a half that the flow of runs slowed. The left-arm spinner's line was consistently troublesome and Lyth, who is developing a habit of closing in on a century only to fail to see the job through, fell on 85, edging to Michael di Venuto at slip. He had hit 16 fours, but after scoring 90, 84 and 85 in his last four innings it was no surprise that he looked annoyed with himself for falling short again.

Joe Sayers, whose contribution to Yorkshire's third century opening stand in four days had been more patient, was soon caught off bat and pad at short leg but Durham's fightback soon fizzled out as Rudolph (68), in immaculate order from the start of his innings, and Anthony McGrath (73) batted through to the close to put Yorkshire firmly in control.