A NINTH successive lost toss in the championship must have seemed like a blessing in disguise for Jon Lewis as the Durham bowlers took seven wickets by early afternoon yesterday. Then the rain arrived.

Graeme Hick and Vikram Solanki, Durham's destroyers in Tuesday's floodlit match, were both removed first ball by Nicky Hatch as Worcestershire slumped to 149 for seven.

After going wicketless at Lord's, Hatch seemed to relish the return to more humble surroundings on Durham's first visit to Kidderminster, taking three for 15 in his opening eight-over spell.

Hick thrust his pad at a ball of fullish length on off stump. He kept his bat alongside, but clearly wasn't playing a stroke and was given out lbw.

Solanki pushed forward at the next ball and edged low to Paul Collingwood at first slip, and when Hatch found extra bounce to have David Leatherdale caught behind the hosts were 34 for four.

A stand of 62 between opener Anurag Singh and left-hander Paul Pollard threatened to drag them out of the mire.

But Singh drove at an out-swinger from James Brinkley and was brilliantly caught at third slip by Graeme Bridge for 45.

The ball was still swinging when Danny Law returned for a second spell after lunch to claim two wickets. Pollard padded up and was lbw for 45 then Steve Rhodes edged to Martin Love at second slip.

The only blot was that hard-hitting Queenslander Andy Bichel survived a sharp chance to Bridge off Law on 15 and celebrated by driving Hatch straight into the advertising boards at long-off.

It was not a huge hit on this small ground, but it brought him six runs on the way to 32 not out.

Durham fielded the same side as at Lord's and are now virtually resigned to being without Simon Brown and Neil Killeen for the rest of the season.

Killeen broke down again on the final day of the second team match at Milton Keynes, and as it is not clear what is wrong with his ankle prolonged rest could be the only cure.

There was another injury scare yesterday when Nicky Peng was struck a painful blow on the hand while fielding at short leg.

He was taken for an X-ray, but no break was found and he will join up with England Under 19s for the first four-day Test against the West Indies at Leicester on Monday.

The Under 19 selectors have apparently now agreed to release Peng, however, from the second Test, which means he will miss only one Durham game - the home match against bottom club Derbyshire.

The pitch at Kidderminster looked good and Lewis would almost certainly have batted had he won the toss.

But the ball swung in the cloudy conditions and a lot of the early runs Durham conceded flew to third man.

They broke through in the fifth over when Durham-born left-hander Phil Weston pushed to cover and foolishly took on Jimmy Daley, who swooped in and under-armed the ball into the stumps at the non-striker's end with Weston short of his ground.

Hatch claimed his two big scalps in the next over and if Durham get rid of Bichel quickly today they will hope to build a good first innings lead.