On a warm, summer Thursday they had crumbled, as is customary, in the face of Gloucestershire's threadbare attack. Yesterday, caught in a mighty gale, they compiled a match-winning score.
When the declaration came, Stewart Hutton remained unbuffeted on 143. His eight-hour vigil was almost chanceless and interest-free, a sedate procession of singles. A measure of his progress is that his second boundary of the day was an apologetic push in mid-afternoon that took him to 72 off 79 overs.
Yet for Durham it was invaluable. Momentarily, in the mid-morning, Andrew Symonds had threatened to breeze through their batting. Bowling seam for the first time, he mixed wild long-hops with unplayable deliveries, and collected two wickets in three overs.
But that was it for Gloucestershire. With Courtney Walsh at a funeral in Jamaica, the captain, Jack Russell, regularly rotated his seven bowlers and frequently fidgeted with his field. At one stage he had a forest of gullies and points, and a glaring leg-side trap which suggested that the unpredictably high bounce was the only hope of a wicket.
It was to no avail because when Phil Bainbridge joined the unhurried Hutton he picked the gaps with resounding cuts and expansive cover drives. The bounce nearly undid Bainbridge when, on 48, his attempt to hook Mark Alleyne skied off a top edge to Mike Smith. A Durham member - enthusiastic at the rare prospect of seeing two half-centurions at the crease simultaneously - bellowed in the boundary fielder's ear: "Nay, lad, don't drop it".
He did, and Bainbridge survived to make his highest score in two years and Hutton to make the second Championship century of his career, so taking Durham to the brink of their first win of the season. But with Simon Brown being seen off with ease in the late evening, Gloucestershire may feel all is not lost.Reuse content