IT took Durham 90 minutes to grab a wicket this morning and it was partnership breaker Ben Stokes who made the breakthrough.
Runs had been flowing ominously in the previous few overs and the stand between Joe Denly and John Simpson was worth 114 when Stokes surprised left-hander Simpson with a fast full toss, which splattered his stumps.
The visiting wicketkeeper seemed to think it was an unfair delivery, but he had to go.
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There were no further wickets, however, until the final over before lunch, when Denly was caught at gully off John Hastings for 59, leaving Middlesex were 177 for six, 391 behind.
While the pitch is placid, there was still some swing available and Denly was fortunate to edge Chris Rushworth just wide of third slip on 15. He went on to reach 59 at the break.
When Hastings pitched the ball up he bowled some quite big in-swingers, but the batsmen soon got used to that, knowing he wasn’t going to make it go the other way.
After bowling superbly yesterday evening, Mark Wood looked out of sorts, again raising questions about his fitness.
Denly pulled him through mid-wicket for four to reach 50 off 82 balls then repeated the shot off the next ball before a thick edge gave him his third boundary in the over.
The former Kent batsman also took three successive fours off Stokes, the last one being sliced wide of gully.
Simpson’s exit for 44 brought in Ireland’s Paul Stirling, who has enjoyed most of his success in one-day cricket. He looked very competent in reaching 15 at lunch.