Flintoff back in the groove but Durham on top

Durham 244 & 122-6 Lancashire 116

Winning the County Championship last season may have been the fulfilment of a dream for Durham but they clearly have no intention of resting on their achievement.

Last week, they blew away Hampshire, a genuine contender, by an innings and 110 runs before noon on the third day; this time, it is Lancashire who are feeling the North-east wind.

It will be a surprise if a fourth day is needed in this match. There were enough dismissals yesterday – 18 in total – to prompt enquiries about the pitch from anyone who was not present, and from some who were. Lancashire, pleased with themselves for keeping Durham to 244, could muster only 116 in reply; Durham, who lost their first four second-innings wickets for 10, closed six down.

Yet there are no demons in this surface. There may have been some in the minds of the batsmen. Then again, on both sides, they were up against fast bowling of the highest quality. Indeed, the quartet who inflicted most of the damage would amount to a pretty tasty England pace attack.

Steve Harmison, Graham Onions, Andrew Flintoff and Saj Mahmood: bring those four together, with radars locked on and body parts fully working, and even an Australian dressing room might seem a nervous place.

Flintoff took the first two wickets yesterday, with consecutive deliveries. Harmison and Onions then shared eight in Lancashire’s demolition before Mahmood laid into Durham’s top order. With good bounce and just enough purchase, it was a sporting pitch that suited them, but if they could just find a way to have all their planets in alliance a little more often, many frustrated brows could be unfurrowed.

Onions should be excluded from that assessment. In terms of unreliability, whether physical or mental, the other three have form. Onions, for the most part, has identified his talent and delivered, this season particularly. So far, in all forms of cricket, he has 48 wickets, 10 of those in the Test series against West Indies.

He is a feisty character, though. When Ashwell Prince, leaving the stage with reluctance after umpire Neil Mallender had raised the finger to an lbw shout, responded with a hard stare and some choice words, Onions simply gave some back.

Harmison saw off Francois du Plessis, Lancashire’s sole batting success, among his 4 for 28 but not with a good ball. The one he enjoyed most did for Flintoff, whom he surprised with – fuller delivery that reached the stumps via an inside edge – revenge for being out first ball to his mate earlier.

Flintoff – Peter Moores will report should England ask their former coach – bowled splendidly, conceding one run the first six overs of his opening second-innings spell. He took the wicket of Phil Mustard, whose 51 had been Durham’s redemption at the start of the day.

Blackwell, unbeaten on 65 after being dropped off Flintoff on 18, led their recovery in the evening and, if the bowlers continue to hold sway, the champions may already have a winning lead.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick