Durham face nailbiting chase

Lancashire 84 & 282 Durham 186 & 27-3
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The Independent Online

Durham may have looked as fallible as Lancashire as both sides were bowled out on the opening day here, but no one in the visitors' dressing room will be too worried if they leave here today celebrating a sixth victory of the season.

Given what happened on the opening day, when the ball swung prodigiously and 20 wickets fell, seeing it through might not be straightforward, particularly after a torrid 10 overs last night had them wobbling at 24 for 3.

Lancashire have a 100 per cent record in three matches here this season. It will take probably one decent partnership to swing the balance in Durham's favour but a target of 181 still looks challenging.

With a game in hand, defeat would not be catastrophic for the home side, but a win for Durham would stretch their lead over Lancashire at the top of the First Division to 23 points – hardly enough to ensure a third title in four years but one that might make them favourites, with Warwickshire 54 points behind in third.

Yesterday Peter Moores, Lancashire's former England coach, had a ready response to those who had questioned the quality of this year's championship in the light of an opening day here that was bizarrely reminiscent of a club game, with one batsman after another easily undone by accurate swing bowling.

"To say that would be grossly unfair," he said. "It was strange to see 20 wickets fall in one day because some of the cricket played this season has been of very high quality. Look at the way Durham batted against Yorkshire, for example, scoring 400-odd in 70-odd overs. They have been solid all season, as we have."

Indeed, Durham can boast 15 first-class hundreds this season, shared among eight players. They probably have the strongest hand of bowlers, too, and were impressive in the way they stuck to their guns yesterday after Lancashire, in stark contrast to day one, went through the first session for the loss of only one wicket, somewhat given away with a loose stroke by Stephen Moore.

The rest of the day was altogether more productive for them. Four wickets in the afternoon session followed, including a couple for Steve Harmison after some familiar radar problems, with another five after tea. Graham Onions, with a couple of inside edges to get rid of Gareth Cross and Saj Mahmood, finished with four for 74.

Junaid Khan smashed the leg-spinner Scott Borthwick over the top for six but the real thorn in Durham's side was Luke Procter, who hit eight fours in what might be a crucial second Championship half-century if Durham falter.

Kyle Hogg cranked up the pressure on them by getting Michael di Venuto and Gordon Muchall leg-before, with nightwatchman Onions then falling to a fine catch at gully from Saj Mahmood's first ball. A gripping third day awaits.