AMID suspicions of chicanery in the pitch preparation at Northampton yesterday, Durham barely had time to assess the value of winning the toss because of the weather.

Play began at 2.40 and in 12 overs Durham reached 35 without loss before the rain returned, with play being abandoned at 4.40.

Despite practising at Wantage Road on Tuesday, Durham were not given a chance to look at the covered pitch, but the groundsman did tell them they would need two spinners.

Confirmation of this came when, after heavy overnight rain, the covers were eventually rolled back to reveal an extraordinary sight.

The pitch appeared to have been roughed up on a spinner's length at both ends, so Durham duly included Nicky Phillips at the expense of Nicky Hatch.

Asked if they had any comment to make, umpires John Hampshire and Trevor Jesty replied: "We'll see how it plays."

There was no pitch inspector present, but it would be no surprise if one turns up this morning as there was little doubt that the umpires were surprised by what they had seen.

Wantage Road has been known for heavily favouring the batsmen in the last season and a half, and given the lack of penetration in their seam attack it could be that Northants felt they could beat Durham with spin.

Off-spinner Jason Brown and Graeme Swann bowled them to the division two title two years ago and played a big part in halting their run of five defeats against Nottinghamshire last week.

But tampering with the pitch in this fashion - if that is what they have done - can backfire if you don't win the toss and Jon Lewis will be hoping to cash in on his correct call today.

He had three minor scares yesterday in scoring six runs, while Gary Pratt reached 23 without any alarms.

The captain appeared to lose sight of a yorker from Carl Greenidge, which just missed Lewis's off stump when he was playing to leg.

He then edged Darren Cousins just short of second slip and and survived a big appeal for lbw from the same bowler.

The decision was turned down by Jesty, who is not Durham's favourite umpire. He might have felt he owed Lewis something after giving him out caught behind off his sleeve against Worcestershire at the Riverside three weeks ago.

Greenidge, son of Gordon, the former West Indies opener, is one of two famous names in the home side as they have also included 21-year-old David Paynter instead of Adrian Rollins.

A former Yorkshire Academy batsman, he is the great grandson of former Lancashire and England batsman Eddie Paynter.

Greenidge, who joined Northants this season from Surrey, saw two successive no-balls clobbered to the boundary in his fourth over by Pratt, who also hit him for two more fours as he conceded 26 runs in five overs.

Spin did not get an airing as there was just time for Greenidge to give way to medium pacer Tony Penberthy for one inaccurate over before the rain returned

Read more about Durham here.