TWO wickets in two balls in John Hastings’ first over and one for Paul Coughlin with the last ball of the day helped Durham to gain the upper hand on the first day against Nottinghamshire.
Taking the opportunity to bat first on a pleasant day at Chester-le-Street against an attack almost as depleted as their own, they would have hoped for more than 253.
But Hastings raised spirits when he had Steven Mullaney caught behind for a duck then pinned James Taylor lbw with a full-length ball which swung in late.
Chris Rushworth looked unlucky to have a good shout for lbw against Michael Lumb turned down before the left-hander had scored but a less optimistic appeal was upheld with the batsman on 18.
Then Samit Patel, who had looked comfortable in reaching 26, pushed forward and edged Coughlin to Scott Borthwick at second slip and Nottinghamshire closed on 66 for four.
There were half-centuries for Mark Stoneman and Michael Richardson, but both got out just before an interval to bowlers who had just come on.
Stoneman batted fluently for his 55 before he inside-edged Mullaney’s second ball into his stumps. And Richardson diligently held the innings together by making 73 before being lured out of his crease by Patel’s third ball.
It was pushed wide of off stump and the ease with which Chris Read pulled off the stumping underlined that the visitors should have the edge in that department.
That’s because Phil Mustard is missing a championship game for the first time for two years with a knee injury suffered in training.
Richardson was handed the gloves because Durham didn’t wish to further weaken the batting by having two Ireland players making their championship debuts.
They have had to include the recently-registered Peter Chase as the fourth seamer and decided not to risk the official reserve wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter.
Richardson said: “It’s a good pitch and we hoped to get 300, but the seamers on both sides have bowled really well.
“I only found out this morning I would be keeping wicket. I gave it up because it takes a lot for Phil Mustard to miss a game, but I’ve always wanted to keep my hand in and I don’t see it as a burden.
“Paul Collingwood asked me where I wanted to bat and I said I’d stay at four because I’ve enjoyed it there. I didn’t want to drop down to seven.”
That dubious pleasure went to Gordon Muchall, who scored an unbeaten 158 when the sides met in a rain-ruined draw at Trent Bridge.
He batted at four against an attack which included Stuart Broad, Peter Siddle and Andre Adams. None is playing here, nor is Harry Gurney, and the visitors must have been pleased to see Muchall come in so low.
In nine subsequent championship innings he had a top score of 37 not out and after a jittery start he equalled that yesterday before running out of partners.
Siddle has been replaced by New Zealand all-rounder James Franklin, who is making his first championship appearance for Nottinghamshire, along with ex-Lancashire spinner Gary Keedy.
Now 39, Keedy spent last season with Surrey before switching to Trent Bridge as assistant physio and spin bowling coach. His inclusion does not speak well of the title chasers’ appetite for promoting youth.
Durham scored only five runs off the first five overs then Stoneman hit three fours in five balls off Ajmal Shahzad. An on-drive, a pull and a clip through square leg brought the first batch of the 11 boundaries in his 66-ball half-century.
Richardson went in at 34 for two and survived a very confident lbw appeal from Luke Fletcher on two. The third-wicket stand was worth 62 when Stoneman departed and Calum MacLeod did not look comfortable against good bowling from Fletcher, who had him brilliantly caught at third slip by Mullaney for 18.
Collingwood looked in terrific form as he cracked a couple of fours through the covers off 23-year-old seamer Jake Ball, who is playing only his third championship game.
But the captain may have been lulled into a false sense of security against a bowler who often strayed down the leg side and after making 22 he chopped an attempted cut into his stumps.
That brought in Muchall to join Richardson, whose mixture of good, authentic strokes and streaky ones brought him ten fours in his 104-ball 50.
When both batsmen pulled Shahzad for four in the 61st over to bring up the 200 with five wickets down Durham had cause for satisfaction.
Then two wickets fell for one run as Richardson’s exit was swiftly followed by that of Hastings, who played back defensively and edged a good ball from Shahzad to Read.
Coughlin began confidently and made 13 before edging Fletcher to Patel at second slip then Rushworth dug in for a couple of overs before lashing Patel for two fours. Instead of settling for that he went for another off a more flighted delivery and fell lbw.
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