DURHAM ran into some steely resolve yesterday after reducing Durham University to 65 for six at Chester-le- Street.
Cameron Steel and Oliver Steele both made half-centuries as the students reached 176 for nine in the drawn match.
Steel lived up to his name impressively enough to warrant further attention. For an 18-year-old he showed remarkable resilience and concentration in scoring 68.
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“We’ll certainly keep tabs on him,” said Durham coach Jon Lewis. “He fought hard and put a high value on his wicket. He lined the ball up well and played a few shots later in his innings.”
Lewis reported that there had been no further progress in the last three days in Durham’s audacious attempt to sign Kumar Sangakkara, adding: “We are hopeful because he’s keen to come.
There are a couple of hurdles to overcome, including getting the approval of the Sri Lankan board.”
Lewis also hopes that Scott Borthwick will have recovered from a slight side injury in time to bowl in the opening championship match, starting at Northampton on Sunday.
Born in California, Steel played for Somerset from under 13 to second X1 level and has also spent time in Australia, playing for Western Australia Under 17s before deciding he wished to qualify for England.
He played for Middlesex seconds last year and it seems they were as interested in his leg-spin bowling as his batting.
He bowled against Durham on Tuesday and certainly turned his googly.
Opening the batting, Steel seemed strokeless in scoring only eight in the first 20 overs, but then off drove Jamie Harrison for four and later played some handsome cover drives.
He was fortunate on 13 when a thick edge off Graham Onions flew wide of fourth slip and in Usman Arshad’s second over his lack of evasive action suggested he was surprised by the pace of a ball which rattled him on the helmet.
But he stuck doggedly to his task and shortly after surviving a sharp chance to second slip off Chris Rushworth he reached 50 off 132 balls.
There will not be many slower half-centuries in firstclass cricket this season, but for one so young it was an admirable effort, ended when he played back in Gareth Breese’s third over and edged to Phil Mustard.
Oliver Steele then got after Breese, hitting him for two sixes over the short leg-side boundary, as well as paddling the off-spinner round the corner He withstood some short stuff from Arshad and edged Breese for three to reach 50 off 106 balls before the gentle drift to closing time saw Durham give Mark Stoneman’s off beaks their first airing in first-class cricket.
Steele was on 53 at the close.
Considering the wet winter, groundsman David Measor produced an excellent pitch and there wasn’t much assistance for the seamers.
Onions was wicketless but will not be too concerned about that as he eased himself back into action following a slight foot injury.
The only top-order batsman apart from Steel to hang around was Delhi Under 19s player Chaitanya Bishnoi, who scored 60 in this match last year.
He looked solid until he became the first of three successive victims for left-armer Harrison, two of them edging to Mustard while Will Jenkins padded up to one which didn’t have to swing much to be on target for middle stump.
Durham had Calum Macleod on the field in place of Michael Richardson, who had a thigh strain, and the Scotland batsman will be looking forward to some proper action in the second team over the next few days.