DURHAM captain Cameron Bancroft decided to open the batting for the first time in the championship – and rose to the challenge with his highest score of the season.

Sussex were looking to boost their promotion ambitions against the bottom side in the Specsavers County Championship Division Two. And they were well on top when they had Durham 90-5. But Bancroft, and three dropped catches, ruined their day.

Durham have had dire problems at the top of their batting order. This was their fifth different combination in seven matches. Only once this season – in their opening game – have they had a stand of more than 19 for the first wicket.

This one survived just seven deliveries before Alex Lees sliced his attempted cover drive off Chris Jordan to Harry Finch at backward-point. There were just 7.2 overs in the morning because of persistent light rain.

When play resumed after lunch Sussex took control. Aaron Thomason took his maiden first-class wicket when he had Gareth Harte, driving, caught by Stiaan van Zyl at extra-cover. That made it 64-2 in the 22nd over. Then Chris Jordan shook Durham with a spell of three wickets in eight balls without conceding a run.

Jordan caught Jack Burnham by surprise with one that bounced and seamed sharply away, for Ben Brown to take a regulation catch behind the wicket.

There were two more for Jordan in his next over. First he swung one away from Graham Clark, who pushed forward and was caught by Laurie Evans at second slip. Then, three balls later, Liam Trevaskis was also defeated by late away swing and was lbw without scoring.

But then Bancroft and Ned Eckersley took the game away from Sussex with an unbroken stand of 169. It was a record sixth wicket stand for Durham against Sussex, beating the 129 shared between Sherwin Campbell and Chris Scott at Hove in 1996.

They had some good fortune. Eckersley had made only four when he was dropped by Evans in the slips – Evans had dropped a catch earlier in the day, when he put down Harte on eight.

Sussex still looked good at tea, when Durham were 117-5. But after the interval Bancroft, who had reached his half-century by pulling the unlucky David Wiese for four, was dropped behind off the same bowler on 59.

Bancroft went on to reach his century – beating his previous best score for the county of 70 – off 179 balls. There were ten fours and a straight six off spinner Luke Wells. At the close Bancroft was 120 not out and Eckersley was unbeaten with 70, including eight fours. Jordan still finished with the good figures of 4-41.

Bancroft said: “I’ve been batting at three before this, for Durham, but I’m really an opening batsman, so it didn’t feel unfamiliar to go in first. It’s just what I do, bat at the top of the order.

“Ned Eckersley played beautifully. The game needed a good partnership for us to be in the game. So it was really pleasing to do that with Ned and now we’re in a position where we can keep building. I feel I’ve been playing well without scoring the runs I wanted. I’ve felt confident. You have to trust yourself and work hard on your game.”