Somerset 224 Durham 265-3: Chanderpaul adds gloss to ICC award with sparkling 93

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The Independent Online

Shivnarine Chanderpaul celebrated his coronation as the world's best cricketer with a decisive innings in Durham's quest for a maiden County Championship title here yesterday. Chanderpaul, named the International Cricket Council's player of the year on Wednesday, hit 93 as second-placed Somerset struggled in the crunch First Division encounter.

The Australian Michael Di Venuto also struck his third Championship hundred of the summer, an unbeaten 131, as just two wickets went down on a rain-affected third day. Durham closed on 265 for 3, a lead of 41 runs, and are well placed to take maximum bonus points. In contrast, Somerset's lack of productivity with the ball on a benign surface has jeopardised their chances of more than a solitary bowling bonus point. After they were dismissed for 224 yesterday, their major target will be to restrict their opponents to below 400, which would deliver a maximum first-innings bounty. Durham went into this contest two places and seven points behind their hosts. Play was delayed for one hour by morning rain, and a match already deprived of its first day by the weather became an attritional affair. The scoring rate accelerated in the final session, after heavy rain fell on the stroke of tea, causing a delay which lopped off a further 11 overs from the day's allocation.

West Indies batsman Chanderpaul emphasised the greater urgency by planting the first two deliveries back from the spinner Ian Blackwell into the stand at long-on. Di Venuto brought up three figures in the following over, from 227 deliveries, and the pair's alliance stretched into its 60th over before they were separated. The breakthrough arrived in the fifth over with the second new ball when Chanderpaul aimed a cut at Charl Willoughby and inside-edged into his stumps. That quelled a brief flow of runs as Chanderpaul took advantage of the hardness of the new ball to clip a couple of fours off left-armer Willoughby. The increase in tempo during the 174-run stand for the third wicket was marked, as just 27 runs came in the opening 24 overs of the afternoon session.

The monotony was broken when Chanderpaul cut a boundary off the left-arm spinner Ian Blackwell. Then Di Venuto swept the occasional off-spinner Wes Durston for another boundary between two dropped chances. Di Venuto added insult moments after his second life when he deposited a full toss from Durston over the ropes on the short leg-side boundary.

Somerset's hopes of containing Durham to a score similar to their own were boosted as Will Smith was yorked by Alfonso Thomas in the sixth full over of the morning. But Chanderpaul and Di Venuto jockeyed for position throughout the remainder of the morning and entire afternoon session. Durston sent down 17 wicketless overs and his lengthy stint raised the question why the frontline leg-spinner Michael Munday bowled only two. Munday was preferred in the selection to the former England paceman Andrew Caddick but was underemployed on a day of frustration for the home side. Nevertheless, a draw would take Justin Langer's men to the top of the table ahead of Nottinghamshire and Durham.