YORKSHIRE folk may occasionally have observed that it’s a funny old game. And they would certainly have wondered what on earth was going on when their side crumbled from 270 without loss to 291 for five at Headingley yesterday.
With the new ball almost due, Durham’s Mark Wood suddenly found some reverse swing at high pace and took four for four in 11 balls.
But on his comeback from injury he was already well into his third spell and began to flag, allowing Aaron Finch to counter-attack.
The Australian made a sprightly 36 before both he and Adil Rashid were caught at second slip by Scott Borthwick off Chris Rushworth, leaving Yorkshire on 367 for seven at the close.
Wood had at least spared some of Paul Collingwood’s blushes. Never in Durham’s first-class history had a decision to insert the opposition backfired so spectacularly as in the stand between lefthanded tyros Adam Lyth and Alex Lees.
Five weeks after their opening partnership of 375 at Northampton, both made centuries before they were parted in the eighth over after tea.
A sunny morning looked heaven-sent for batting and the Durham skipper’s decision was all the more surprising in view of Yorkshire scoring 589 for eight when batting first at Chester-le- Street this season.
He could argue that things might have been different had two very good shouts for lbw gone Durham’s way in the third and fourth overs.
There was also evidence of life in the pitch when the bowlers hit it hard enough on the right length. But in the continued absence of Graham Onions there was not enough firepower to discomfort the openers.
As so often this season, Rushworth bowled well without luck until he took his two wickets with the new ball in the evening.
Wood began the evening session by being driven for three fours in an over through the off side by Lyth, who passed 1,000 first-class runs in making his second century of the season against Durham.
First to go was Lees, who confirmed his England potential by making 108 before he tried to work a straight ball to leg and fell lbw to Borthwick.
Five overs later Lyth played back to a ball from Wood which nipped into him and had him lbw for 143.
In his next over a fast, full ball pinned Andrew Gale in front and two balls later Jonny Bairstow shouldered arms and was bowled.
Another fast in-swinger rearranged Jack Leaning’s timber before runs began to flow again as 46 were added in eight overs before Rushworth struck.
He deserved his rewards on a day which began badly when his opening over cost 13, starting with four leg byes. Lees tried to withdraw his bat and edged through the slips for four then offdrove another boundary.
In Rushworth’s second over Lees, on 11, survived what looked a very good shout for lbw, while Lyth had still to score when he had a similar scare against Hastings.
The Australian’s first four overs cost only seven runs, but he was left on for four more, which went for 29.
Things were looking desperate for Durham when, with the score on 106 after 21 overs they brought on Borthwick, who didn’t bowl at all in the last championship match at home to Sussex.
The leg-spinner got away with three bad balls in his second over as two full tosses produced only singles and a long hop was pulled on to the helmet of Keaton Jennings, who had already taken a blow on the knee at short leg.
In his next over Lees drove a full toss for six shortly after slicing a drive off Paul Coughlin in the air just out of gully’s reach to reach 50 off 67 balls, four faster than Lyth.
Wood found some life in the pitch to beat Lyth twice on 46, but both batsmen drove with increasing assurance as they raced to 145 from 32 overs at lunch.
Durham tightened up afterwards as Rushworth bowled an excellent spell, beating Lees several times as only 13 runs came off the first ten overs.
But Lyth and Lees responded tenaciously as they added 86 in the session. The only chance came when Phil Mustard dropped Lees on 91 off Coughlin, who had just found the edge of Lyth’s bat on 95, only for the ball to fly for four just wide of Collingwood at slip.
The next ball was turned to mid-wicket for the single which took Lyth to his century off 183 balls and Lees reached the target off 189 when he flicked his 12th four off his hips off Collingwood.
The skipper barely knew where to turn at the time, but he had cause for mild satisfaction by the close.