|Ground:||Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street|
|Scorecard:||Durham v Yorkshire|
|Player:||KK Jennings, AZ Lees|
|Event:||Specsavers County Championship 2016|
DateLine: 24th June 2016
Durham v Yorkshire
Result: Durham (172 and 507/8 dec) drew with Yorkshire (323 and 238/5).
It was typical of the proverbial ‘glorious uncertainty of cricket’ that a match which after two days Yorkshire looked likely to win on the third, should end with Yorkshire fighting to avoid defeat. They were not seriously hard-pressed to do so, but their inability to bowl Durham out a second time, thanks mainly to a magnificent innings of tremendous determination and concentration from Keaton Jennings, who scored 221 not out, meant that they were set a target that was beyond their ability on this occasion to challenge.
If Yorkshire had managed to polish off the Durham innings in the first few minutes of play, an excellent finish might have been possible. The overnight score was 452 for eight wickets, with Keaton Jennings on 185 and Chris Rushworth on 16. Both Jennings and the Yorkshire bowlers should have been refreshed after their labours of the previous day, but only Jennings seemed to benefit from it. He spent 35 minutes in reaching his first double century, off 397 balls, when he clipped a ball from Tim Bresnan wide of mid-on for four.
Rushworth showed admirable determination, and he now began to open up, swinging a ball from the part-time off-spinner Adam Lyth to the midwicket boundary to bring up the 500. After 55 minutes’ batting Durham declared their innings closed. Jennings finished unbeaten with a monumental 221, scored off 416 balls in just 22 minutes short of ten hours; he hit 23 fours. Rushworth had 31, the ninth wicket had added 82 runs, and the final total was 507 for eight wickets, a superb fightback for the home team.
The pitch, however, gave nothing to the Yorkshire pacemen and they had no front-line spinners. With only two regular bowlers in their team, they were clearly struggling when the opposition put up a stern fight, and in this innings Bresnan was disappointing, his figures of two for 145 being eminently forgettable. He was rarely threatening and often expensive and rather inaccurate. Steve Patterson, however, plugged on superbly, making the batsmen fight for almost every run, getting through 38 overs and yielding only 77 runs for his two wickets.
Yorkshire were set 357 to win in 81 overs. This was an unlikely target for them and, on this now flat pitch, Durham would have to bowl particularly well or the visitors bat particularly badly to bring about a result. Again, had Yorkshire been able to end the Durham innings early on, a much better finish would have been likely.
Yorkshire seemed to follow the usual policy of teams in these circumstances, “Let’s bat normally till lunch and see how it goes.” Lyth and Alex Lees kept the scoreboard ticking over, and Durham soon decided the pitch held no favours for their pacemen either, so Scott Borthwick came on with leg-spin for the ninth over, and Ryan Pringle with off-breaks for the fourteenth. The pitch did a little to help them at times. Lunch came after fifteen overs, the score then being 38 without loss, both batsmen having 18.
Yorkshire’s planning then seemed to follow the next step of the usual pattern, “All is well so far, so let’s push things on a bit.” Both batsmen got stuck into the spinners straight away, using their feet well and forcing the home team to bring back their seamers, which did rather curb the scoring. Lees in particular hit fluently and reached his fifty off 76 balls. The team 100 came up in the 29th over, followed by Lyth’s fifty off 100. Two balls later, however, he slashed at a wide one from Barry McCarthy and was caught high at slip, the fielder being a certain Ben Stokes — on as substitute for Paul Collingwood, who had injured his hand in the field the previous day.
Then came a shock, as the renowned New Zealander Kan Williamson was dismissed first ball, lbw to a very good ball from McCarthy that came back on him. Gary Ballance had to face the hat-trick ball, which went just down the leg side, accompanied by a rather distasteful display of appealing from several of the Durham fielders trying to convince the umpire he had got a tickle on it.
Yorkshire had apparently not yet given up hopes of victory, as Ballance began his innings like a train, running up 17 off his first seven balls. But he groped fatally at a delivery from Graham Onions, which he edged to the keeper and was out for 32 off 40 balls, the score being 149 for three. Tea was taken a few minutes later, at 155 for three, Lees still there with 67 and Andrew Gale yet to score. 202 more runs were needed off the remaining 37 overs, and the odds still heavily on a draw.
After tea it was clear that Yorkshire had decided to settle for that draw. The spinners returned and the forward defence became the most frequent stroke in use, although the batsmen did not allow them to become too complacent. Gale did not last longer than 17, though, pushing forward again at Pringle but edging to the keeper; 176 for four with 27 overs remaining. Two overs later, the situation became a little more disturbing for Yorkshire, as Lyth, after scoring 74, chopped a ball from Pringle on to his stumps; 179 for five.
It now devolved upon Jack Leaning and Bresnan to play out the game for Yorkshire. They did this very efficiently, showing solid defence against all the bowlers Durham could throw against them, and not scoring unless they could not very well avoid it until the final few overs. Durham used up their full 81 overs, plus one extra that was possible due to the liberal use of their spinners, but could not separate the obdurate pair, despite taking the second new ball for the final two overs. They put on 59 together in 26 overs, with Leaning scoring 22 off 84 balls and Bresnan 27 off 75. The final total was 238 for five, still 119 runs short of their unlikely target.
(Article: Copyright © 2016 John Ward)