Kumar Sangakkara’s debut Durham innings came and went in the blink of an eye. However, career-best performances by Mark Stoneman and Michael Richardson provided last year’s champions with ample consolation, making it highly likely that they will escape with a draw against Yorkshire, the side they beat to the title, despite conceding 589 runs in the first innings.
The 36-year-old Sri Lankan, scorer of almost 25,000 international runs, faced England bowlers Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom for his only two deliveries, watching the first fly past the outside edge before the second took it, diverting to Kane Williamson, who failed to take the catch at third slip but was rescued by Adam Lyth at second.
Given that Sangakkara’s short-term contract at Chester-le-Street will encompass a maximum of four Championship innings, it was not the best of starts and it was hardly a surprise to see him later hard at work in the nets. Fortunately, as they tried to reach a target of 440 to avoid the follow-on or, failing that, to bat long enough over two innings to avoid defeat, Durham were superbly served by Stoneman and Richardson.
The left-handed Stoneman completed a fluent half-century soon after the start, scored off only 54 balls. Subsequently, he was required to dig in as Yorkshire’s bowlers stepped up the pressure, with Bresnan and Sidebottom the more consistent threats.
But Stoneman did not offer a chance until he had completed his hundred, which came with consecutive leg-side boundaries off Jack Brooks. It was his ninth in first-class cricket, six of them coming since August 2012. Surviving a chance to Adil Rashid at first slip off Sidebottom on 102, he went on to reach 131 before he was leg-before misjudging a ball from Liam Plunkett.
Richardson, arriving at 70 for 3, played the perfect supporting role for Stoneman in a stand that added 136 for the fourth wicket, his progress measured until he had gone past 50 from 112 balls, after which he attacked, scoring his second 50 in less than half the time, profiting particularly against Brooks, whom he pulled for six, and Rashid.
However, the leg-spinner had the last word, just after being hit over long-off for six, when he had the South African-born right-hander stumped for 148. It was his third first-class century, surpassing his previous best of 129 last September.
On a pitch that flattened out in the sunshine, the disappointments for Durham, Kangakkara apart, were Paul Collingwood and Phil Mustard, both out to shots of premature expansiveness, but Yorkshire still need to take 12 wickets to win the match.