LEADERS Middlesex were made to pay heavily for putting Durham in this morning then dropping Mark Stoneman on seven as he raced to 94 out of 140 for one at lunch.
The left-hander was put down at first slip by Dawid Malan off Tim Murtagh then pulled, cut and drove the highly-rated visiting seamers to distraction in reaching 50 off 47 balls.
With two overs to go Stoneman was on 91, raising the possibility of scoring a century before lunch. It is believed no-one has done that for Durham on the first day of a championship match.
The country’s leading wicket-taker, Steve Finn, looked well short of being ready for an England return as both Stoneman and Keaton Jennings drove him to the extra cover boundary in the sixth over.
Stoneman cut Murtagh for two fours in the next over, then showed his class when he played a good ball very late and with no follow through picked up three through extra cover.
He was beaten by Finn on 37, but another cut off Murtagh brought up his 50 with his tenth four.
Toby Roland-Jones conceded only one run in his first over before Stoneman pulled him dismissively for two fours in his second. He cleverly ran two to deep mid-wicket off the next ball after the fielder had been pushed back to the rope.
The total was on 82 when Jennings departed for 16 to the final ball of the 16th over, when Roland-Jones nipped one through his backward defensive stroke to bowl him.
Scott Borthwick, back in the side for Gareth Breese, got off the mark with a slightly streaky four wide of gully, but soon began to middle the ball and was on 25 at lunch.
Durham have handed a debut to Australian John Hastings, who flew in yesterday, and Mark Wood returns at the expense of Usman Arshad.