Slimline Blackwell weighs in with powerful appetite

Durham 303-7 v Yorkshire
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Durham's wisdom in offering Ian Blackwell the chance to resurrect his career was underlined for the second time in six days but Yorkshire, for whom wicketkeeper Gerard Brophy took five catches, will feel they did well to claim seven wickets on the opening day here.

The champions had launched their defence of the County Championship by taking the obvious option on a nice-looking pitch and in splendid early summer sunshine by batting first when Yorkshire's Anthony McGrath called the toss incorrectly.

That must have frustrated Michael Vaughan as much as anyone as the former England batsman looks for the substantial score he needs to underpin his Ashes comeback bid. Phil Mustard posted a rugged unbeaten 62 late in the day but until then it had needed Blackwell to sustain the form of his Durham debut against the MCC last week to enable Will Smith's side to register a respectable total in the face of disciplined bowling from Yorkshire.

The former Somerset batsman, who shed 24 pounds over the winter to demonstrate just how serious he is about giving his career a belated flourish, followed his unbeaten 102 at Lord's with 95. He was responsible almost on his own for Durham's recovery from 129 for 5 before Mustard's late help.

Apart from Michael Di Venuto, who looked to have a substantial score in the offing before he top-edged a pull off Tim Bresnan, Durham's principal batsmen found the going difficult as Yorkshire's seam attack maintained tight lines and made good use of such help as they found in the air and off the pitch.

But Blackwell, whose powerful hitting has not suffered for having less weight behind it, progressed with much more confidence, recording 16 boundaries before becoming Brophy's fifth victim off England discard Matthew Hoggard.

Brophy, whose 66 with the bat clinched Yorkshire's win in a 50-over contest here on Sunday, had a terrific day behind the stumps. His catch, diving to his left, to dismiss Mark Stoneman was a fine effort, but he was to better it later when he dived to his right to take Dale Benkenstein one-handed.

His agility and safe hands ensured that Yorkshire's seamers were suitably rewarded for bowling not only accurately but with great heart on a day that could easily have gone against them. Bresnan, unlucky not to be called into the England Lions side after an impressive performance for MCC against Durham, hit the pitch hard and beat the bat often, deserving more, perhaps, than the three wickets he managed.