ONCE Mark Stoneman had sped to his hundred by hitting two successive balls from Jack Brooks for four Durham had to withstand some testing bowling this afternoon.
The best of it came from Liam Plunkett in a ten-over spell of sustained pace and aggression. There was a time when Durham decided to use him sparingly in case of injury, but he looks very fit now.
It needed someone of his pace to make an impression on the docile pitch and although he finally removed Stoneman for a career-best 131 he couldn’t shift Michael Richardson.
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Both batsmen made centuries at Scarborough last August and after grafting his way to 50 off 112 balls – twice as many as Stoneman – Richardson began to play fluently on his way to 98 not out at tea, when Durham were 317 behind on 272 for five.
They also lost skipper Paul Collingwood, who made ten before he was bowled when he missed an attempted pull off Adil Rashid.
Plunkett hadn’t been particularly threatening in his morning spell, but a switch to the Lumley End worked wonders, prompting Yorkshire president Dickie Bird, on a visit to the media centre, to observe: “He’s my dark horse for t’ first Test. You need pace in Test cricket.”
Plunkett had Stoneman dropped at first slip by Rashid on 102, but finally pinned him lbw for shortly after moving past his previous best of 128, made at Hove in 2011.
Plunkett was bowling round the wicket to the left-hander, who misjudged the line of a ball which skidded into him with lower than usual bounce when he was not offering a stroke.
The return of Brooks, the weak link in the attack, took some of the pressure off and Richardson pulled him for six before playing some confident cuts off Rashid.