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Durham on the brink of glory
DURHAM should be crowned county champions within the next two days following a dramatic start to their home match against Nottinghamshire yesterday.
It used to be obligatory for a pitch to be reported to Lord’s if 15 wickets fell on the first day and yesterday 15 went down in the first 49 overs.
With pitch inspector Jack Birkenshaw taking a close interest, it raised the alarming prospect of Durham having points deducted. But any suspicions about the surface receded as Durham, replying to Nottinghamshire’s 78 all out, recovered from 45 for five to reach 207 for eight.
He said: “It looked like one of our flatter pitches. Sometimes there’s extravagant movement here but today the ball did just enough to find the edge.
“To bowl out Nottinghamshire for 78 on any wicket is exceptional. Our bowlers were outstanding and Andre Adams is the perfect type of bowler for that pitch. For us to have a lead of over 100 is a great effort.”
There is nothing spiteful about the pitch, which we can be sure has been prepared with the usual diligence. The original groundsman, Tom Flintoft, said his advice to anyone else creating a new ground for first-class cricket would be: “Don’t build it next to a river.”
After the dry spring of 2011 bucketloads of runs were scored at Riverside – Somerset made 610 for six declared in May that year.
But the combination of a little moisture in the pitch and cloud cover encourages the ball to nip around, both through the air off the surface. It is bound to prompt some resentment around the country from those who claim Durham’s pitches give them an unfair advantage. But they have won four times away from home this season, including what can be seen as the title decider on a very flat pitch at Scarborough.
There was nothing exceptional about the movement yesterday – in the hands of some expert practitioners the ball did just enough.
Of the top six batsmen on each side the only two not to fall to edged catches were Riki Wessels and James Taylor, who were both lbw. Wessels played down the wrong line to a ball which Graham Onions slanted, rather than swung, into him and Taylor padded up to a Chris Rushworth inswinger.
In the circumstances the latter was an extremely careless dismissal for a batsman with England aspirations, while four Nottinghamshire players got out recklessly.
When Durham batted they would have known that, in anything approaching his best form, Andre Adams was going to be a handful in these conditions.
The 38-year-old New Zealander has twice enjoyed five-wicket hauls at Riverside in the last three years and yesterday he appeared to amble in with more economy of effort than ever, simply aiming to put the ball in the right place.
In a 13-over spell he took four for 27, but once he rested the pressure eased and Mustard began to stroke the ball around with immaculate timing.
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