WHEN Gordon Muchall bats as he has today it is impossible to understand why he has had such a stop-start first-class career. In stroking his way to an imperious century off 102 balls he has looked every inch the high-class batsman he threatened to be when making his maiden hundred at Lord’s 12 years ago, aged 19.

Play began at 1.30 with the floodlights on, although Durham’s sparkling batting was enough to lift the gloom with Ben Stokes showing exactly why he won’t be available to Durham much longer.

Two batting points were in the bag before tea as 174 were added in the session, taking the total to 252 for three, Keaton Jennings falling for 40. Muchall was on 119 at tea with Stokes on 53.

Loading article content

Since making 175 at Worcester three years ago Muchall had a top championship score of 55 and didn’t make any four-day appearances last season.

His transformation into a one-day player seemed to be confirmed under the terms of his new contract for this season, but injuries have given him this opportunity and he has seized it superbly.

Having reached 24 off 20 balls when play was ended at lunchtime yesterday, he hit the second ball he faced to the cover boundary off the back foot today.

Despite the forecast of rain all day, play began at 1.30 and Muchall was not afraid to look for scoring opportunities off Stuart Broad, who did, admittedly, beat him a couple of times.

Good defence, which has not always been his forte, was also needed to keep out Broad and Peter Siddle and when Ajmal Shahzad came on Muchall took 14 off his first over.

An on-drive for two was followed by two steers to the third man boundary and a hook to long leg to reach 50 off 48 balls.

When Andre Adams replaced Broad his first ball was cut fiercely for four by Muchall before the New Zealander had Jennings caught behind.

Stokes almost casually worked his first ball through mid-wicket for four and other than a couple of slightly streaky shots has looked very solid in a high-quality stand which is so far worth 121.

Muchall reached 80 off 71 balls before playing out a maiden from Siddle. On 90 he advanced to loft Samit Patel over long-on for six then pulled the next ball for his 17th four. It was his 12th first-class hundred and on this evidence there is still time for plenty more.