Rankin battles away but Durham close on victory

Warwicks 135 & 127-4 Durham 273
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The Independent Online

English cricket supporters always warm to a trier and there are not many bigger than Boyd Rankin, in more than one sense.

The 6ft 8ins Ulsterman, raised on a farm near Londonderry, is a towering presence on the field, his height giving him the advantage most bowlers crave in that he can find bounce in the most benign surface.

His potential was noted in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, when he was Ireland's leading wicket-taker, but his career has been bedevilled by injuries and his development hindered as a result.

He joined Middlesex in 2004, moving to Derbyshire before settling with his present county, but so far this is the first summer in which he has not had one physical problem or another.

The workhorse of the Warwickshire attack, he may not always offer the control his captain would like but is never found wanting for effort and there can be few supporters of the Midlands county who would not applaud the first five-wicket haul of his career.

With a fierce, blustery crosswind to contend with, even after the interruptions for rain had ended, keeping on the straight was particularly hard but Ian Westwood kept faith with Rankin even when he was going at six an over.

Plugging away at the Finchale End, he claimed his third wicket when Dale Benkenstein edged to second slip after a fine 73 and then, during his best spell of the day after lunch, dismissed Phil Mustard and Callum Thorp in the space of three balls to finish with 5 for 85.

Not that it did Warwickshire's cause more than a fleeting benefit. Behind by 138 on first innings, an unbeaten 55 from Jim Troughton after Tim Ambrose was out for 39 enabled them to recover from 34-3 to close on 127-4. It is hard, though, to see them denying Durham another stride towards retaining their title.

Durham's total might have been bigger had Ian Blackwell not played loosely outside off stump to an away swinger from Naqaash Tahir soon after completing his half-century but Liam Plunkett's unbeaten 31 was a useful knock, helping his side claim a second batting point – one which assumed greater value given the carnage reaped on the bowling attacks of rivals Nottinghamshire and Somerset.

Durham say they have no objection to England's decision not to release their leading wicket-taker, Graham Onions, to join this match, even though he was left out of the XI at The Oval. "Graham has done well for them this summer and they wanted him still to be part of the dressing room for such an important match, which is fair enough," Durham's coach, Geoff Cook, said.

* Lancashire took control of the Roses match at Headingley by reducing Yorkshire to 131-5 at the close having been bowled out for 276. Tom Lungley, once of Derbyshire, led the Red Rose attack, taking 3 for 40 from his twelve overs, two of those being caught and bowled. Elsewhere in the First Division, Michael Lumb scored a double century for Hampshire as they piled up 654-8 against Nottinghamshire, who stumbled to 48-4 at stumps Imran Tahir taking 2 for 11 from his seven overs.