GORDON Muchall showed his liking for playing in the deep south when he helped Durham to pick up three batting points – their first for five games – on an evenly-balanced opening day against Sussex at Arundel.

Muchall, who made his top score of 219 at Canterbury in 2006, remained unbeaten on 81 as the tail helped him revive Durham from 197 for seven to reach 301 after being put in.

Chris Rushworth then removed Mike Yardy and Luke Wells in successive overs as Sussex closed on 44 for two a day after suffering a traumatic experience at the idyllic ground.

Their Twenty20 match against Surrey was abandoned after two visiting players suffered a sickening collision in going for the same high catch and were knocked unconscious.

A crowd of 8,500 were denied the chance to see Surrey bat, but a less animated gathering, including a healthy contingent from Durham, settled to absorb the gentler pace of a four-day game in the arboreal splendour.

Not that it was particularly gentle when Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick were adding 69 in 8.3 overs for the second wicket before Tim Linley removed both on his way to figures of five for 63.

Muchall said: “Sussex set pretty good fields so we couldn't keep powering along.

“We would have been happy with 301 at the start of the day. It looked a pretty good pitch to bat on, but there was always a ball with your name on it so you had to try to be positive when you could.”

Linley, the 33-year-old Surrey seamer, is one of two players on loan to Sussex and Durham probably had greater reason to fear the other, Somerset spinner George Dockrell.

The Irish left-armer took six for 29 in bowling Durham to defeat at Taunton three years ago but is considered to have slipped into reverse in the last two years. He has little chance of a place at Somerset while they have Abdur Rehmann as their overseas man.

However, Muchall used his feet well to play Dockrell with confidence, hitting him over long-on for six and driving him through mid-on for his 11th four to bring up the 300.

He also countered the newly-developed leg-spin of Luke Wells effectively, although Wells did pick up two wickets to suggest Durham should benefit as the pitch wears from the presence of two spinners.

They brought in Ryan Pringle for his first championship appearance of the season to support Borthwick.

But it was the disciplined seam bowling of Linley which claimed the first day honours as he enjoyed a spell of three for two in 15 balls.

Signed because of injury problems, plus the absence of Chris Jordan on England duty, he came on after Ajmal Shahzad broke down in the fourth over of his comeback from a pectoral injury.

Keaton Jennings was bowled by Steve Magoffin in the fifth over before Stoneman set about the bowling in scorching to 51 off 44 balls.

As on Durham's previous visit to the ground, he was out immediately after completing his half-century when he edged a good ball to second slip.

Borthwick fell the same way for 24 and Paul Collingwood was lbw for nine offering no stroke as Linley maintained a probing off stump line.

Sussex used seven bowlers before lunch in an attempt to stem the flow as Durham reached 147 for four, but progress slowed as Muchall and Michael Richardson ensured the good start would not be wasted.

They put on 83 in 24 overs before Richardson was well caught at mid-wicket by the diving Chris Nash.

Linley returned for a second spell and again struck twice in quick succession, bowling |Pringle with one which kept a shade low before Paul Coughlin departed second ball.

Rushworth continued his excellent season with bat and ball as he helped to put on a valuable 63 for the ninth wicket with Muchall before striking the two late blows.