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Plunkett proves all-round hit

Durham 380 Sussex 269-6

While one Durham pace bowler, Graham Onions, was enjoying himself with England yesterday, one of his county team-mates Liam Plunkett, was reminding the cricket world that there are other in-form bowlers with the county.

In fact Plunkett, who has played nine Tests for England, actually demonstrated that he can bat as well. His efforts not only left another English bowler Stephen Harmison in the shade, but also left Sussex in some disarray and trailing a distant second in this match.

Harmison was not bad, he was economical and at times quick, but it could not match Plunkett's all-round excellence, which actually challenged the perception that the 24-year-old Plunkett should be regarded only as a bowler. His footwork and strokeplay during his career-best unbeaten 94 (20 runs more than his previous mark set against Somerset at Stockton four summers ago) revealed a competence and assurance that suggested here is an all-rounder.

His bowling was accurate and aggressive and his spell of three wickets in 17 balls, which helped reduce Sussex to 97 for 4, suggested that he may yet attract the attention of the England selectors.

One of Plunkett's wickets was the usually prolific Murray Goodwin, who pushed at one that left him to become one of Phil Mustard's three catches, departing without a run to his name. The most emphatic dismissal had to be that of opener Chris Nash, who went forward to a ball from Plunkett that sent his off-stump cart-wheeling some 15 yards backwards. It was a massive blow because Nash and opening partner Michael Yardy were threatening to build a solid foundation to their reply.

They had taken Sussex to within sight of a century stand, so Plunkett's delivery was a vital strike. It certainly seemed to have rattled the rest of the Sussex batsmen because Ed Joyce came and went, caught behind, a victim of Mitchell Claydon, who went on to pick up the valuable wicket of Yardy just after the Sussex captain had reached fifty for the first time this season.

And just ahead of Yardy's departure Plunkett plucked out another middle order batsman, the rookie Rory Hamilton-Brown was caught behind having faced three balls.

Yardy had frustrated Durham for two hours, and his departure made the follow-on a distinct possibility until Luke Wright, another England hopeful, and wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd got their heads down and dragged the Sussex innings to safety.