IT all clicked for Ben Stokes yesterday and after bagging career-best bowling figures of seven for 67 against Sussex he can expect a recall to the England side for the Test series against India.
That would mean he misses Durham’s next championship match, against Yorkshire at Headingley starting on July 7, but Graham Onions could return as he has now started bowling again.
After striving to find his best form with bat and ball following his own return from injury, Stokes’ sensational effort put Durham well on course for a second successive championship win.
Sussex’s slide from 56 without loss to 205 all out mirrored their season and they would doubtless be grateful to get Chris Jordan back following his wicketless performance for England at Headingley.
Durham stretched their lead of 132 by reaching 105 for one in their second innings and still have two days to clinch the victory which will pitch Sussex deep into the relegation mire.
Stokes said: “I’ve had a bit of a tough time with the ball since coming back, but today everything clicked. I felt in a really good rhythm and the ball was swinging. When we changed the ball we got a good one which kept its shine well.
“I knew it was a career-best but the main thing is always how the team is doing. If the England selectors want to pick me for the India series that would be great, but I’m trying not to think about that. My focus is to put in good performances for Durham.”
Durham were out of luck in the first hour but yet again a change of ball had an influence and fortunes changed with both openers falling to slip catches via the wicket keeper’s gloves.
As the edges kept coming Phil Mustard finished with four catches and two assists, while Stokes bowled three of his victims, most notably when he plucked out lefthander Ed Joyce’s off stump.
Sussex seemed to profit on Sunday from having the ball changed after 31 overs and yesterday it happened after 17 overs of their own innings and again after 14 of Durham’s second.
Balls going soft and out of shape has become a real problem, which will clearly need to be addressed as always finding a replacement of a similar age will be impossible.
It took an hour for Durham to make the breakthrough then extra swing and bounce saw five wickets fall for 23 in 12 overs.
Two overs after the ball change Stokes came on and Luke Wells nicked the fifth ball, which flew very fast to Mustard, who parried it to Scott Borthwick at second slip.
Paul Coughlin came on at the other end and after opening with a maiden he was twice driven to the cover boundary by Chris Nash, who then fended at a short one and edged above Mustard’s head.
The wicketkeeper managed to knock the ball upwards and Paul Collingwood completed the catch at first slip.
Rory Hamilton-Brown edged Stokes to Mustard before the bowler went round the wicket to Joyce, who played round a fast swinger.
Ben Brown joined Luke Wright but after putting on 335 against Durham at Hove last month this time they added only four before a steeply-rising ball brushed Brown on the way to Mustard.
The batsman indicated it had hit his shoulder, but he was sent on his way.
Steffan Piolet contributed 25 to a stand of 54 before Stokes knocked back his off stump to complete only his second five-wicket haul in the championship. His previous best was six for 68 against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl in the first game of 2011.
After a 14-over spell spanning lunch he was rested and James Tredwell looked reasonably comfortable in making 16 until John Hastings extracted steep bounce to have him caught at second slip by Borthwick.
Left-hander Steve Magoffin edged Hastings to Mustard before Stokes was recalled and saw Wright top-edge a pull over the wicketkeeper for his eighth four to reach 50 off 79 balls.
Stokes took the last two when he had Jon Lewis caught behind and forced Lewis Hatchett to play on, leaving Wright stranded on 66.
With a full session to bat, Durham made a flying start then dropped anchor after losing Mark Stoneman, caught at second slip for 22, with the total on 35 in the sixth over.
Keaton Jennings kept the score ticking over, reaching 46, while Borthwick spent an hour over his first four runs and remained unbeaten on 22.
Durham v Sussex
At Emirates Durham ICG.
Overnight: Durham 337 (M D Stoneman
113, J W Hastings 51; L J Hatchett5-113,
J Lewis 4-66). Sussex 20-0.
Sussex First Innings
C D Nash c Collingwood b Couglin ..36
L W Wells c Borthwick b Stokes........20
R J H’n-Brown c Mustard b Stokes ...... 1
E C Joyce b Stokes.................................. 2
L J Wright not out...................................66
B C Brown c Mustard b Stokes ............ 4
S A Piolet b Stokes................................25
J Tredwell c Borthwick b Hastings ..... 16
S J Magoffin c Mustard b Hastings...... 5
J Lewis c Mustard b Stokes ................... 4
L J Hatchett b Stokes .............................. 4
Extras (lb4 nb18 pens 0) ...22
Total (65.3 overs).............. 205
Fall: 1-56 2-66 3-69 4-75 5-79 6-133
7-164 8-176 9-185
Bowling: Rushworth 20-4-50-0. Hastings
18-4-52-2. Stokes 17.3-3-67-7. Couglin
Durham Second Innings Close
M D Stoneman c Tredwell b Lewis.....22
K K Jennings not out .............................46
S G Borthwick not out ..........................22
Extras (b4 lb9 nb2 pens 0) 15
Total 1 wkt (36 overs) ...... 105
To Bat: M J Richardson, B A Stokes, P
D Collingwood, G J Muchall, P Mustard,
J W Hastings, P Couglin, C Rushworth.
Bowling: Magoffin 10-3-27-0. Hatchett
9-1-32-0. Lewis 6-2-8-1. Tredwell 5-1-8-0.
Piolet 5-1-11-0. Hamilton-Brown 1-0-6-0.