AFTER going to Trent Bridge this week struggling with injuries, Durham emerged from the rain-ruined game against Nottinghamshire with plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
While the form of Ben Stokes on his return from injury confirmed that he will not be available for long, there was an encouraging debut for Scotland Under-19 seamer Gavin Main and an innings of the highest class from Gordon Muchall.
Durham ran into an injury crisis on the last day of their seven-wicket defeat at Taunton.
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With Graham Onions still sidelined by his back problem, they were reduced to two fit bowlers against Somerset through injuries to Mark Wood (side), Jamie Harrison (knee) and Scott Borthwick, who suffered his second fractured finger of the season.
All were ruled out at Trent Bridge and, with Sunderland’s Paul Coughlin still feeling his way back after injury, Durham had no option but to give 19-year-old Main his debut.
He recovered from an understandably nervous start, conceding three fours in each of his first and third overs, to take 3-72, while Stokes claimed 3-70 as Nottinghamshire were dismissed for 377.
There were also three wickets for Usman Arshad, who did an excellent job when handed the new ball for the first time.
Durham replied with 335-4, of which Muchall made an unbeaten 158 after starting the season believing that, for the second successive year, his appearances would restricted to one-day cricket.
Keaton Jennings (40) survived a tough examination against Test-class bowling from Stuart Broad and Australian seamer Peter Siddle before Stokes contributed 61 to a stand of 133 in 29 overs before holing out to long-on.
Muchall played like the oneday batsman he has become, although he relied on orthodox strokes and his 17 fours and one six were effortlessly timed to perfection in racing to a century off just 102 balls.
It was reported that he had been awarded a one-day contract this season, but he said: “The way the contract was worded left the door open for me and I did enough in early season to stake a claim.
“I’m treating it as a bonus and trying to clear my mind so that I don’t have the pressure of seeing it as the last chance saloon. I’mtrying to enjoy every minute as much as I can.”
Main, from Carluke in Lanarkshire, has been in the Durham Academy since 2011 but has yet to play for the senior Scotland side.
Fair-haired, lean and standing at 6ft 2ins tall, he has the sort of action which allows him to hit the deck hard, which is what he did when he was brought back for a second spell.
He had conceded 29 in his first four-over burst, but rattled Chris Read on his return with steep bounce then claimed his maiden wicket from a similar delivery as he found the shoulder of Riki Wessels’ bat to earn a simple return catch.
Broad, making his comeback after a knee problem, was also treated to a few short ones before being surprised by a superb yorker from Main, which took out his off stump.
Main’s third wicket was a gift as the first ball of his third spell was pulled straight into the hands of Michael Richardson at deep square leg.
After choosing to bat, Nottinghamshire had slipped to 29-3, Arshad taking two of the wickets, before Main’s jittery start allowed Samit Patel to swiftly revive the innings with a 41-ball half-century.
He went on to make 99 and shared a stand of 192 with England hopeful James Taylor before Stokes had both men caught at third man by Gareth Breese in successive overs.
In Borthwick’s absence, Durham went for the experience of West Indian spinner Breese rather than give Ryan Pringle a second game after his chastening debut at Taunton, where he came under fire on the final day as Marcus Trescothick rolled back the years to bludgeon 133 off 129 balls.
Breese had already held on to a catch at second slip and finished with four when he caught last man New Zealander Andre Adams at long-off.
No play was possible on the final day, which means Durham are still without a win after six games in the LV County Championship. They remain third from the bottom, two points ahead of Lancashire.