Victory at last, but glass still half full

First published in Sport

GOOD things come to those who wait. And it has seemed like a long wait since Durham’s last County Championship win, with weather both frustrating and saving them in their early season toils.

Yet as Jos Buttler gathered a head of steam on the final day of the match against Lancashire, there grew a distinct feeling that we may well have to wait even longer.

Thankfully, Buttler’s century was in vain, but the narrow margin of victory leaves more questions than answers.

The glass half full view of the game would see a side who battled on against the problematically flattening Riverside pitch and ground down a resilient Lancashire side through dogged bowling, especially from John Hastings and most pleasingly, last week’s boo-boy, Chris Rushworth.

They could point to the record- breaking tenth wicket stand between Phil Mustard, who played against type to rescue a first innings slump, and debutant Paul Coughlin, who looked anything but a number 10 batsman.

His bowling too showed promise and he is yet another of Durham’s academy graduates to look like an all-rounder, following in the footsteps of Ben Stokes, Scott Borthwick, Keaton Jennings, Mark Wood, Jamie Harrison, Usman Arshad, Ryan Pringle et al.

Yet for all the signs that the future is positive, there are a raft of issues plaguing Durham’s title defence.

Durham’s usual pace bowling strength has been sorely, with taking 20 wickets at home being unduly problematic.

Injuries have also played their part, with Graham Onions, Wood, Harrison and Arshad all struggling.

At times against Lancashire, returning Ben Stokes was expensive and well below his best and has gone from being an obvious England starter to having a battle on his hands to regain his place in the Test side.

He not only has to battle Moeen Ali’s batting, but the lack of a stand-out spinner in English cricket to force his way back into the team.

While it is not Borthwick’s fault that he hasn’t had the necessary overs in recent years to fully develop his leg spin, he too was unduly expensive in this game on a wicket which should have been his to shine.

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