WHEN the No 9 batsman, with a previous best score of 35, plunders 65 off 62 balls it’s a fair indication that conditions are favouring the batsmen.

The ease with which Jamie Harrison scored his runs for Durham was an ominous sign for Durham, who were all out for 452 half an hour after lunch then struggled in the field.

Northants had reached 66 in the 16th over when Harrison made the breakthrough, having James Middlebrook caught at second slip by Scott Borthwick for 43.

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With skipper Stephen Peters standing firm on 33 and ex-Durham man Kyle Coetzer on five, the hosts were 83 for one at tea.

Leeds-born Middlebrook, 36, was released by Yorkshire 13 years ago and had eight seasons at Essex before extending his career as an off-spinning all-rounder at Wantage Road.

He has generally been a No 7 or 8, but when promoted to open at the end of last season he scored his tenth first-class century in the final match.

He wasted no time today in setting about Chris Rushworth, whose opening three overs cost 19.

On another sunny day there was still enough chill in the air to discourage swing and there has been nothing in the placid pitch to encourage the bowlers.

Graham Onions got a couple past the bat but began to leak runs towards the end of a seven-over spell which cost 26 runs.

Durham gave Borthwick an over before tea and if he is fit enough he could have a big role to play. There was some doubt pre-match whether he would bowl because of stiffness in his side.

Harrison picked up Azharullah over mid-wicket for six in reaching 50 off 53 balls then drove the Pakistani for another maximum over long-on. The same bowler finally breached another attempted big hit to bowl him, ending a ninth-wicket stand of 65 with Onions, who was unbeaten on 23.