After Nottinghamshire brought Gary Keedy out of semi-retirement to make his county debut, the concern for them is whether their squad has the legs to derail Yorkshire’s challenge for the County Championship title.
With Harry Gurney (38 wickets) away with England and no replacement found for the Australian fast bowler, Peter Siddle (37), it has taken only an injury to Andre Adams (36) to leave their bowling department looking a little thinly resourced.
Keedy’s recall was not exactly out of desperation – the 39-year-old former Lancashire left-arm spinner, who doubles now as spin-bowling coach and assistant physio, was always seen as a potential pick if conditions were right – but the alternative was to give a debut to the 19-year-old left-arm seamer Luke Wood. Given what is at stake, Keedy’s experience possibly had greater appeal.
Chester-le-Street is hardly renowned as a slow bowler’s wicket, yet Keedy bowled 12 overs and the ball did more or less as he wanted from first delivery to last, despite a gap of a year between this appearance and his last one, for Surrey.
The only thing missing was a wicket. As it was, a seam attack led by Luke Fletcher and Ajmal Shahzad served their side well enough. Shahzad took two useful early wickets to remove Keaton Jennings and Scott Borthwick, and Fletcher seldom gave away easy runs. All-rounder Steven Mullaney’s medium pace proved a useful weapon not for the first time when he bowled Mark Stoneman off an inside edge with his second ball.
Stoneman will not have felt almost as frustrated as Michael Richardson, who had played nicely for his 73 and looked to have a third century of the season his for the taking when, with tea in sight, he took an unnecessary chance by going down the track to Samit Patel and was stumped.
Patel, who had taken over from Keedy to bowl more left-arm spin, secured the wicket with his second ball too.
Missing Ben Stokes and with Phil Mustard, ruled out by injury for the first time in two years, Durham posted a disappointing score of 253, especially given their plight at the other end of the table.
What’s more, their bowling resources are in worse shape than Nottinghamshire’s, with Graham Onions among five currently injured. Yet after their Australian paceman John Hastings took two in two balls to remove Mullaney and James Taylor in his first over, the visitors closed with work to do at 66 for 4, Patel caught at second slip off 21-year-old Paul Coughlin to the last ball of the day.