Durham's bowlers wasted no time in wrapping up a comprehensive victory over MCC yesterday in the first match of the county season. The champions resumed needing three more wickets and mopped up the tail in 45 minutes. While the setting, a deserted Sheikh Zayed Stadium rather than a rainy Lord's, was unfamiliar, Durham's status as the side to beat in English cricket is fast becoming the norm.
Nevertheless, the focus has been less about the build-up to the summer programme and more about the innovations on show, chiefly the use of a pink ball under floodlights.
The MCC head of cricket, John Stephenson, was heartened by how the ball played but added that the views of the players involved in the match would be heeded. "The ball's been doing really well," he said. "The players love it, the spectators I've spoken to can see it really well and it's lasted longer than I thought in very harsh conditions, so I think it's done well in the circumstances. I've heard a couple of the problems so we will go back to the manufacturers about them."
Jon Lewis (32) threw away his wicket off the first ball of the day. Ian Blackwell was the bowler, but he will take little satisfaction from the delivery, a slow long hop that Lewis somehow contrived to nick to wicketkeeper Phil Mustard. Steve Harmison took only eight balls to add the wicket of Dean Cosker (14) at the other end. The out-of-favour England bowler has looked dangerous when motivated and had no problems beating the Glamorgan player's defences to win a clear-cut lbw.
Murtagh finished 55 not out as Steve Kirby fell to the 19-year-old leg-spinner Scott Borthwick, who picked up his fourth wicket of the innings and eighth of the match with a googly.