Off-spinner needed

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

WILL Durham enter the bidding for Azeem Rafiq, the off-spinner released by Yorkshire, or are the purse strings still too tight?

Gareth Breese is retiring and the gamble of selecting Ryan Buckley for the match at Old Trafford, despite his lack of form, did not pay off today.

He bowled two overs of modest quality just before lunch and was off the field for the rest of a cool, grey day, feeling unwell.

Durham waited until six overs before the close to take the new ball and will hope to use it to good effect this morning.

With the floodlights on all day Lancashire, clearly hoping to grind their way to a match-winning lead, reached 254 for five in reply to 340.

It is something of a mystery why Buckley was selected ahead of left-arm spinner Max Morley, who has taken 23 wickets at 29.3 in the Second X1 Championship this season, compared with the off-spinner’s nine at 62 apiece. Perhaps Durham have already decided to let Morley go as the money saving continues.

Lancashire selected two left-arm spinners to bowl into the footmarks outside a left-hander’s off stump. Durham had only the leg-spin of Scott Borthwick to exploit those patches of rough.

They caused alarm from early in the first session of this match, otherwise the pitch used for the recent Test match is perfectly good and the arrival of ECB pitch inspector Tony Pigott today will not give Lancashire palpitations.

The first two wickets came in successive Borthwick overs in mid-afternoon, but although he continued to bowl well into the final session he finished with two for 93 in 36 overs. Only at Scarborough last year has he bowled more in an innings.

Paul Horton completed his 20th first-class century and his second against Durham before Chris Rushworth had him lbw for 114, made of 217 balls. Left-hander Ashwell Prince survived a few scary moments against Borthwick, including a very sharp chance to Keaton Jennings at short leg on 20. But the South African played with great skill to remain unbeaten on 56.

Right-hander Steven Croft padded off anything Borthwick pitched in the rough outside his leg stump before shouldering arms to a ball from John Hastings which went straight on to take out the off stump.

The door looked to be ajar at 196 for four, but wicketkeeper Alex Davies played well to reach 25 before Stokes found steep bounce to have him caught at gully in the second over with the new ball.

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