Durham openers leave Derbyshire frustrated

Opener Alex Lees helped hold up Derbyshire's progress. (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images)
Opener Alex Lees helped hold up Derbyshire's progress. (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images)

Durham’s openers stood firm to halt Derbyshire’s victory charge on day three of the Division Two match at the County Ground.

Alex Lees and Gareth Harte battled through a testing last session to reach 10 without loss at the close in pursuit of an unlikely victory target of 361.

Derbyshire had taken control with Tom Lace making his maiden first-class half century before Harvey Hosein and Matt Critchley scored 50’s as Derbyshire reached 334 with Matt Salisbury taking 3 for 65.

That left Durham an awkward 17 overs to survive and Lees and Harte dug in to deny Derbyshire before bad light ended play early.

Although Derbyshire went into the day with an advantage of 133, Durham still had a chance if they could take early wickets but they managed only one in the morning as Lace and Alex Hughes wore down the bowlers.

The ball moved around in murky conditions but although the bat was beaten numerous times, Durham had to wait 18 overs for the breakthrough.

Lace and Hughes played with discipline and restraint until Lace fenced at a wide one from Harte and was caught at second slip.

Hosein provided some acceleration to take the lead past 220 at lunch and after Hughes had been caught behind off Harte for a three hour 39, Critchley took the game away with some punishing strokes.

He reached 50 off 60 balls and Durham’s frustration grew as both Hosein and Critchley survived dropped catches that should have been taken.

Both fell before tea but by then, Derbyshire were 320 ahead and they batted on with Ravi Rampaul striking Liam Trevaskis for two big sixes before he was last out pulling Salisbury to mid-wicket.

Durham were chasing the second highest fourth innings total at Derby and although the pitch had flattened out, they faced a tricky period before the close.

At least conditions were better for batting but there was some swing with the new ball and Tony Palladino almost found the edge of skipper Alex Lees’ bat in the second over.

Lees responded by punching an overpitched delivery down the ground but generally the batsmen were content to leave as many balls as possible with survival until stumps the prime objective.

Only nine runs came from the first 11 overs as Lees and Harte concentrated on defence and their application was rewarded when the umpires took the players off the field two balls into the 15th over.