It took some relative strangers to these shores, Martin Love, of Durham, and Neil Johnson, of Hampshire, to demonstrate how to deal with the vagaries of the Rose Bowl pitch. Late on the first day there had been the odd hint that things might not be as orderly as the match progressed.
And so it proved yesterday, when 16 wickets fell, with the ball now steepling under the batsman's nose, now scudding through at shin height. Love, however, Durham's in-form Australian – but aren't they all these days? – gave a perfect demonstration of how to contend with the up-and-down nature of the surface.
While his overnight partner, Jon Lewis, scratched around in adding three runs to his overnight 59, Love applied himself and his bat. He made things look so simple and when Lewis was put out of his misery after three quarters of an hour, Love was on the verge of reaching fifty for the fifth time in his last six innings.
He duly did, but then Hampshire's bowlers began to make life awkward and Love simply adjusted his approach from one of aggression to one of containment. Ultimately not even he was able to keep out Shaun Udal and he fell on the stroke of lunch, leg before wicket, not offering a shot.
That innings at least inspired the Durham last pair of Simon Brown – two sixes and a couple of fours in his short but savage knock – and Nicky Hatch, who clubbed together for a brutal but potentially match-winning stand of 45 runs off eight overs, which gave Durham a first-innings lead of 20, slender, but in the context of the way this match has been going, probably enough.
Hampshire's second dig revealed that nothing much had changed from their initial approach. The openers Derek Kenway and Giles White hammered a rapid 24 before the former had his leg stump torn out by a Brown yorker.
Will Kendall hung around long enough to help compile 40 for the second wicket before he too lost his leg stump, appearing to play on a delivery from Nicky Hatch. The rapidity with the wheels then came off the Hampshire wagon would have challenged the Ferrari pit-stop team.
Thankfully while Robin Smith, White, Lawrence Prittipaul, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Adrian Aymes were hustled off the scene the other overseas man Johnson, the former Zimbabwe Test all-rounder, held centre stage, and kept the innings together.Reuse content