At the half way point, this Championship clash has all the makings of a nail-biter. Although Durham have the upper hand, leading by 42 as they do, they still know they will have to bat last on a tired pitch.
Durham began the day in the driving seat with 48 runs on the board and no wickets down. The morning session started brightly for them, or more accurately dimly for Surrey as the first half hour passed without alarm for the visitors, but with a fair few boundary balls as Meaker and Keedy bowled poorly. It was not until Gareth Batty's first over that the breakthrough came as he trapped Will Smith lbw. Yet another dangerous partnership had been broken by the captain.
Scott Borthwick, unexpectedly batting at number three, then joined the fluent Mark Stoneman and they looked to be taking Durham towards parity with just one wicket down. However Zander de Bruyn was introduced into the attack and Borthwick couldn't resist playing at a delivery outside off stump and Wilson gladly accepted the catch at first slip. Gareth Batty then got in on the act again as he had the dangerous Stoneman caught by Burns at short leg with half an hour to go till lunch.
With two new batsmen at the crease Surrey had high hopes of another breakthrough before lunch, but Stokes and Benkenstein, took Durham to lunch without further loss. After the break as the partnership approached 50 de Bruyn was introduced into the attack again and Stokes couldn't resist throwing the bat at some wide filth, only resulting in sending the ball careering into his own stumps to leave Durham 170-4 and keeping Surrey in the hunt. After a lengthy rain break de Bruyn was in action again as he trapped Collingwood lbw.
Mustard joined the experienced Benkenstein and was his usual positive self. They put on 54 together and took their side towards parity with only five wickets down. However Batty then accounted for Mustard and Thorp in the space of four overs, before Tim Linley saw off Wood and Rushworth in consecutive deliveries. Durham had lost four wickets for 31 runs and Surrey refused to lie down.
Along the way there were some confusing tactics mind you. As the 80th over (and therfore the new ball) approached, Meaker and Linley were given a few overs. The new ball was then delayed by ten overs, but when it was taken Linley took his two wickets and Meaker was held back. I accept that Meaker was poor earlier in the day but with Durham's lead so slim surely it was worth at least an over or two with the new ball?
With Durham nine wickets down and the close of play approaching, it became clear that Surrey were none too keen to bat again this evening and were playing for the close. Durham ended the day on 279-9, a lead of 42.
This has been a confusing match, all things considered. The pitch has turned, but it's only been slow turn, the occasional delivery has spat and bounced but there have really been few alarms. And yet we've had two low scoring first innings. We cannot afford to let the Durham last pair accumulate too many more runs as the pitch may begin to deteriorate further from here on.
In light of the position at the start of the day, today represents a good solid day's work for Surrey and we are still in the hunt. We were again overly reliant on Batty's bowling, Keedy was very poor in comparison while the rest of the attack were workmanlike rather than deadly.
Tomorrow we need to see off the final wicket quickly, and the batsmen need to do a far better job than they managed in the first innings. Hopefully the heavy roller won't kill the pitch completely and if we can get a lead of any substance, Gareth Batty can look forward to a lot of overs on the final day.
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