Durham earn a hard fought win
by John Ward

Ground:Old Trafford, Manchester
Scorecard:Lancashire v Durham
Player:MJ Di Venuto, DM Benkenstein
Event:LV County Championship 2010

DateLine: 12th August 2010


Durham were made to fight most of the way as they completed a six-wicket victory over Lancashire at Old Trafford after lunch on the final day. It must be admitted that they had the luck of the final day, as their batsmen had several narrow escapes and the bowlers did not find the umpires sympathetic. Durham had no real alarms, though a tough scrap, in reaching their target of 171 on a pitch favouring bowlers, with the main burden of the batting, as is often the case, borne by their ‘foreigners’, Michael Di Venuto and Dale Benkenstein.


Durham resumed at 58 for two in quite sunny weather, although this soon clouded over. The batsmen, Di Venuto and the night-watchman Mitchell Claydon, made a rather frenetic start for the first two or three overs, perhaps rather too eager to get the score moving from the start. Claydon in particular squirted the ball rather nervously through the field and ran jittery singles, and then he was almost lbw to Gary Keedy swinging across the line. Di Venuto also survived a close lbw appeal; in fact there were a good number of loud appeals and Lancashire were quite unhappy at having them all rejected.


The Lancashire captain Glen Chapple used his spinners from the start; they bowled well and got some good turn with uneven bounce, but were met with the determination of the batsmen. It took them more than half an hour to remove Claydon, who finally played over a ball from Simon Kerrigan that knocked out his middle stump; he made 8 and the score was 80 for three.


Lancashire missed running out Dale Benkenstein when he had 16, the score being 106 for three, as the batsmen had a mix-up over a single. But Durham were slowly edging further in front, with Di Venuto playing with superb skill and determination, reaching his fifty off 103 balls. At 118 for three Chapple put himself on to bowl, a very good spell, but it was Keedy who finally removed the opener. Di Venuto (63) miscued a pull – perhaps not the wisest of strokes with the bounce unreliable – and was very well snapped up by the leaping Steven Croft at midwicket. Durham were 132 for four.


Ian Blackwell survived a very hard chance at short leg first ball and did not look at all comfortable this time round. He attempted two or three big hits before lunch, with limited success, and Durham went in to lunch on 142 for four, still needing 29. Benkenstein had a quietly played but sound and valuable 27 to his name, while Blackwell had 4 from 19 balls, though not for want of trying.


After the interval the batsmen started by pushing the ball around for ones and twos, as Lancashire placed three leg-side boundary fielders to Blackwell. This batsman, however, still looked far from secure and had several narrow escapes from dismissal. Benkenstein was more discriminatory and rarely looked in much trouble, showing particular skill in stepping back to force balls from Kerrigan through the off-side field. There was some element of urgency as rain appeared imminent, although it would probably have caused only a delay instead of an abandonment.


It was Benkenstein who nearly fell, though, as he edged a leaping, turning ball from Keedy to slip, where Paul Horton was unable to hold it. After this the threat of imminent rain receded and the batsmen took their time in moving towards the target, which was reached as Blackham punched a ball from Kerrigan through the covers for four at 2.15. He finished on 20, which took him an uncharacteristic 54 balls, while Benkenstein’s solid contribution was 41 off 119 balls. Keedy finished with three for 60 off 32 overs, a very sound job but without just the bite and luck needed to turn the match for his side.


The pitch for this match was not altogether satisfactory, but at least it did provide a far better match and more absorbing cricket than those played out on so many of the ‘flat tracks’ in evidence around the country. It was good to see the spinners used so much and enjoy success, and batsmen having to fight for good scores – and, despite the weather, a well-fought result was achieved, even if it was not the one the home county had in mind.