DURHAM could be in the market for one of Lancashire's spinners next winter after their own lack of quality in that department was exposed at Old Trafford yesterday.

Michael Gough took all four wickets to fall as Lancashire piled up 299 runs to trail by 71 with two days left.

With the glorious weather conspiring with the bone dry pitch to create a seamers' graveyard, Durham had to rely heavily on the off-spin of Gough and Nicky Phillips, plus Simon Katich's scarcely threatening chinamen.

Although he is working on it, off-spin is very much the second string to Gough's bow and before yesterday four of his six first-class wickets had come in one innings. He took four for 49 in the win against Nottinghamshire at the Riverside last July and these were his first wickets since. With four for 91 off 23 overs, he couldn't match Phillips' economy, but the senior spinner's lack of wickets continues to be a concern.

An education at Manchester Grammar School and Cambridge University seems to guarantee runs against Durham, as John Crawley and Mike Atherton continue to prove.

They put on 135 for the first wicket and Crawley went on to reach 117 to follow the 158 he made at Old Trafford against Durham last season.

Indian Test captain Sourav Ganguly, beaten first ball by Gough, weighed in with 65 and if Lancashire establish a decent lead their three spinners could put Durham under real pressure as the ball will be turning square by tomorrow.

Lancashire hope to have Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan as their overseas player next season, so at least one spinner will be surplus to requirements.

The time has surely come for Durham to accept that Phillips is not up to division one standard. In his third season with the club he looks no nearer to making the grade than when Sussex released him.

He bowled better than usual when introduced yesterday, but without the little bit of luck every bowler needs he steadily declined until he troubled Graham Lloyd late in the day.

Phillips drifted the ball away and turned it back into the right handers, and against lesser batsmen he would have had wickets. But Crawley is a good player of spin, Atherton is a good player of anything and Ganguly has faced a host of better spinners than Durham have to offer.

The lack of variation in Phillips' flight meant the batsmen could easily pick his length and play him with comfort, despite the turn.

Gough should have claimed Crawley on 72, when he was dropped at mid-wicket by Katich, and the home captain also had three slices of luck early in his innings.

He would have been lbw during a good first spell from Neil Killeen had he not got an inside edge on to his pad and John Wood might have had him on 19 had second slip not been removed. Wood then showed his frustration with an audible expletive as he found the shoulder of Crawley's bat, only for the ball to lob into the vacant gully area.

With no movement through the air or off the pitch for the seamers, Crawley began by working anything on the stumps through the leg side.

He had only nine fours in his 258-ball stay, but he proved that his match-saving six and a half hour innings at Taunton last week had played him into form after a poor first half of the season.

Atherton, accumulating with metronomic efficiency, looked immovable until he pushed forward and was smartly taken off bat and pad by Jon Lewis at forward short leg.

Gough turned another to have the left-handed Neil Fairbrother lbw on the back foot, but after getting past Ganguly's outside edge he then bowled a loose over, which got the Indian under way with three fours.

Ganguly contributed 64 to his stand of 108 with Crawley, but then got out straight after the captain had driven a return catch to Gough.

Aiming to drive wide of mid-on, Ganguly was bowled and at 270 for four the door was suddenly ajar for Phillips to secure a vital first innings lead. He thought he had Lloyd caught behind, and Katich almost had the same batsman in the last over. The unbroken stand of 29 with Warren Hegg will have to be broken quickly today if Durham are to secure an advantage