Sangakkara's brief encounter leaves Durham wanting more – Around The Wicket

SO LONG: Kumar Sangakkara makes a catch during Durham's draw at Hove

SO LONG: Kumar Sangakkara makes a catch during Durham's draw at Hove

First published in Sport

LAST season’s closer at Sussex, which was played presumably after several cold drinks had been taken in the wake of the Championship win, will remain notable for most Durham fans as the game in which Phil Mustard took what one would presume to be his first and only First Class wicket.

Luke Wright has the batsman in question, caught plumb in front by what you could call, if you were being generous, a slider.

Yet at the much deserved benefit game for Gordon Muchall and Gareth Breese, his spin of sorts claimed the victim of a far more illustrious batsman in the form of bona fide superstar Kumar Sangakkara.

After such an inauspicious start, Sangakkara duly took his last innings with Durham to play the kind of knock which will strike fear into the hearts of English bowlers and will have the ECB deeply irritated that he’s managed to play himself into the conditions just before competitive international cricket begins.

While the game at Sussex ended with self-congratulatory and star-struck selfies from the Durham squad, Sangakkara’s knock, which while not single-handedly game saving, certainly played a huge part in digging Durham out of the massive, if not entirely self-inflicted hole they found themselves in against Sussex.

Having blazed through the Sussex top order, the injuries to Graham Onions and Usman Arshad, followed by the record breaking assault from Wright and Ben Brown, felt sickeningly familiar to the struggles against Yorkshire the previous week.

The weather undoubtedly prevented any kind of result, although the flat pitch made you wonder whether even with a full four days that would have been likely.

However, the salvage job was not Sangakkara’s alone.

Rushworth, who may have to shoulder even more responsibility leading the attack if there is a prolonged absence for Onions, relentlessly trundled in at the end of the first day and kept a semblance of order in the face of Wright and Brown’s onslaught.

Mark Wood, who himself has struggled with injuries in recent years, was also able to bowl sizeable spells and looks to be reaping the benefits of the conditioning work he underwent at the behest of the ECB over the winter.

Scott Borthwick’s first major score of the season meant that all of the top order have contributed in the opening games, while Paul Collingwood’s renaissance continues apace.

His impressively slow defence against Yorkshire was followed by an impressive spell of quick scoring counter attack on the last day as Durham went in search of the maximum batting points.

But it’s the injury to Onions which will cause Durham most concern.

Knocks to Arshad, Jamie Harrison and Paul Coughlin aren’t thought to be long term issues but any lengthy period without Onions would be a crippling blow.

It felt counter intuitive at the start of the season when Durham announced the signing of relatively unheralded Australian bowling all-rounder John Hastings, due a distinct lack of depth to the batting in the squad, yet now he can’t arrive quickly enough.

While it seems unlikely fans or players will be quite so giddy as they were at the brief stay of Sangakkara, that extra body amongst a relatively fragile bowling attack is desperately required.

On the plus side, Ben Stokes is close to a welcome return, albeit a brief one before disappearing off with England.

Quite how Durham balance the new predominantly Friday night format of T20 with the presumed priority of the Championship remains to be seen but it may be an opportunity for rotation and experimentation.

You suspect that at this rate, every member of the tiny squad may be needed.

JAMES TIERNAN

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