Given his record against them, it is fair to say that Keith Barker is one of Durham’s least favourite opponents. The 28-year-old Warwickshire left-armer was the principal architect of two innings defeats last season and is the man who has them on the back foot in the first of this year’s meetings.
Barker took 6 for 46 as Durham were bowled out for 171 at Chester-le-Street in July and 5 for 59 as they were dismissed for 201 at Edgbaston in September, each time finishing with eight wickets in the match.
This time, it was with the bat that he inflicted more suffering. On a day restricted to 26.4 overs because of rain, he raised the prospect of another wide-margin win by converting his overnight 86 into the fifth first-class hundred of his career and his second against Durham, against whom he made his maiden century in 2011.
For good measure, he then took his 41st wicket in nine matches against Durham, finding the edge to have the left-handed Keaton Jennings caught at first slip as the visitors made a poor start of the 301 runs needed just to avoid the follow-on.
Barker’s talent for batting is a bonus. His real strength is his ability to swing the ball, vary his angles and bowl not at lightning pace but to hit consistently testing lengths. It is that which has made him such an asset for Warwickshire over recent seasons, averaging 50 wickets a year among a rotating pool of seamers.
Quite why England have never seemed particularly interested remains a mystery, given the value attached to left-armers. They might yet be denied the chance to pick him; asked about his ambitions in an interview last autumn, he admitted he would happily play for West Indies, for whom he qualifies through his father, who represented British Guiana.
Durham are in trouble largely because control eluded their bowlers on a pitch that, in spite of what the scoreboard might suggest, has tested batsmen. They did not help themselves much with the bat, either, with Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick giving Richard Jones their wickets with careless shots, well caught by Boyd Rankin at long leg and Ian Westwood at deep square leg respectively.
Middlesex, the Division One leaders, will not be dismayed to learn Durham are struggling, as they have some work to do in reply to Hampshire’s 413 at the Rose Bowl, where 18-year-old South African-born Brad Wheal, handed the new ball on his Hampshire debut, took his maiden first-class wicket with his 18th delivery, bowling former England opener Sam Robson.
Nottingham’s poor form continued at Trent Bridge, where all-rounder Craig Overton took 3 for 27 and the home side closed the day on 195 for 8, trailing Somerset, beaten four times in a row, by 117.Reuse content