WITH Tom Jones due to appear at the Wantage Road cricket ground this summer, it could be said that where Durham lead, Northamptonshire follow.
There is usually some sap in April pitches to encourage the bowlers, but this one is so docile that Durham’s No 9 batsman, Jamie Harrison, romped past his previous best of 35 in plundering 65 off 62 balls.
It was an ominous sign for Durham, who were all out for 452 half an hour after lunch then struggled in the field as Northants replied with 200 for three, left-armer Harrison taking two of the wickets.
There is still time for Durham to force a win in the opening match of their title defence, but after this the bowlers will relish the chance to bowl on home turf, starting against Somerset on Sunday.
Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer frustrated his former team-mates, surviving some scary moments to make 53. It was the seventh half-century of the match but no-one has gone on to three figures.
In favouring the leg side Coetzer often shuffled across his stumps and played some fine shots through mid-wicket.
But he also missed twice early in his innings and looked a little fortunate not to be adjudged lbw.
Also, on eight, he tried to withdraw his bat from a Graham Onions delivery and edged through the slips for four.
After making 172 in the MCC v Champions match four years ago, Coetzer followed up with three half-centuries in Durham’s first three championship games before his performances tailed off. He was dropped in mid-season and released at the end of it.
He averaged 29.63 in the second division last season, which does not suggest that Durham were wrong to let him go. But he certainly tormented them yesterday before Harrison tied him up by slanting the ball across him and finally had him caught behind.
On another sunny day there was still enough chill in the air to discourage swing, although Onions did find a modicum of movement to have home skipper Stephen Peters caught at second slip by Scott Borthwick for 51.
Borthwick also pouched James Middlebrook off Harrison after the Leeds-born allrounder contributed a brisk 44 to an opening stand of 66.
By adding 139 in yesterday’s morning session, Durham were one short of doubling their pre-lunch tally during Sunday’s crawl. And with Northants scoring at almost four an over, 122 more runs were scored than on the first day.
Durham built impressively on their firm foundations and Harrison’s was by far the swiftest of the five half-centuries, coming off 53 balls shortly after he picked up Mohammad Azharullah over mid-wicket for six.
Durham’s Jamie Harrison took two Northamptonshire wickets yesterday
He then drove the Pakistani for another maximum over long-on before the same bowler finally breached another attempted big hit to bowl him, ending a ninthwicket stand of 65 with Onions.
After resuming on 265 for five, Durham began to accelerate in the day’s fourth over when Phil Mustard square drove Maurice Chambers for four then pulled the next ball to the fine leg boundary.
Two overs later he clipped Chambers through mid-wicket for four, but he seemed to get the jitters on 90, possibly as a result of his determination to prove he can build centuries in responsible fashion following his promotion to No 5.
He drove twice at Azharullah and missed before attempting to leave a ball from Steven Crook, only to nick it to the wicketkeeper. His restrained innings of 91 had spanned 185 balls.
Usman Arshad began so confidently that the fourth bonus point still seemed possible, but in the end Durham were 12 runs short on 338 for six after 110 overs.
Arshad made 20 off 25 balls before edging a drive off Middlebrook to slip, and Gareth Breese’s patient knock ended 15 minutes before lunch with his score on 62.
After playing only five championship games in five years, it was his highest firstclass score since making 121 not out in the match at Canterbury in which Durham clinched their first title.
He over-balanced when trying to clip away a ball from Andrew Hall which was well wide of leg stump and was the victim of a slick stumping by David Murphy.
Durham took the field looking full of vim and with Middlebrook and Coetzer in the top three might have fancied making early inroads.
Middlebrook, 36, was released by Yorkshire 13 years ago and had eight seasons at Essex before extending his career at Wantage Road.
He has generally been a No 7 or 8, but wasted no time yesterday in setting about Chris Rushworth, whose opening three overs cost 19.
Durham bowled only one over of spin, sent down by Borthwick immediately before tea, and if he has fully recovered from his side injury he could still have a big role to play. He and Breese will need to bowl a lot in the second innings if Durham are not to lose points for a slow overrate.
Overnight: Durham 265-5 (M J Richardson
80, P Mustard 63 no, K KJennings 54).
Durham First Innings
P Mustard c Murphy b Crook ................91
G R Breese st Murphy b Hall ................62
Arshad c Hall b Middlebrook ................20
J Harrison b Azharullah .........................65
G Onions not out ...................................23
C Rushworth c Crook b Azharullah ....... 6
Extras (b4 lb16 w1 nb4 pens 0) ....25
Total (135 overs) ..........................452
Fall: 1-3 2-40 3-122 4-217 5-223 6-319 7-
347 8-379 9-444
Bowling: Chambers 26-8-86-2. Azharullah
28-3-116-3. Hall 22-8-63-2. Crook 30-3-94-
1. Middlebrook 25-5-61-2. K J Coetzer 2-
0-10-0. Spriegel 2-1-2-0.
Northamptonshire First Innings Close
S D Peters c Borthwick b Onions .........51
J D Middlebrook c Borthwick b Harrison .....43
K J Coetzer c Mustard b Harrison .........53
M N Spriegel not out .............................20
R I Newton not out ................................24
Extras (lb3 nb6 pens 0) .............9
Total 3 wkts (55 overs)...........200
Fall: 1-66 2-128 3-166
To Bat: A J Hall, D J Willey, S P Crook, D
Murphy, M A Chambers, Mohammad
Bowling: Onions 16-4-62-1. Rushworth 14-
5-50-0. Harrison 14-3-40-2. Borthwick 1-0-
7-0. Arshad 10-1-38-0.