LV County Championship Division One

Middlesex v Durham at Lords Friday 2nd August – Sunday 4th August Tom&Onions

Durham produced a below par batting performance at Lords to give Middlesex the win which allowed them to leapfrog over us into third place in the LV County Championship Division One. Middlesex completed the win very early in day 3 out of the four days available, meaning fans who had booked hotels with the intention of watching cricket at Lords for four days had to make do with alternative entertainment in London. Include me on that list.

The Durham side and fans travelled to Lords knowing that they would face Northants in an away tie in the T20 quarter finals the Tuesday after the game and whether this had any effect on the players‘ mindsets for this game is hard to tell, they certainly batted like they were in T20 mode rather than a four day game where there is the opportunity for the batsman to accumulate runs over a longer period.

After Middlesex won the toss and elected to bowl, Durham started terriblly on a lively wicket and found themselves 13 for 3, they ultimatley struggled to a paltry total of 143 all out in less than 50 overs. Chances of a Durham win at this stage looked extremely slim, the highest score of the innings being Paul Collingwoods thirty.

Middlesex’s Steven Finn was looking to bowl his way back into the England side for the Lords1final two tests of the Ashes series and he staked his claim by returning figures of 4 for 46 in the first innings. Corey Collymore also bowled well and recorded figures of 2 for 38.

Middlesex in reply struggled to 126 for 5 by the end of Day 1 suggesting the wicket was offering plenty of assistance for the bowlers. At one stage they were 2 wickets down with only a single run on the board. In total 15 wickets had fallen on day one of the match. Maybe Durhams score wasnt as bad as we first thought.

Eager not to miss any of the action on Day 2 we caught the underground from Liverpool Street where I was staying, through to St Johns Wood and made the short walk to Lords, £16 being the price for a days play.

I sat in the Edrich stand with a view of the new-ish media centre. It was worthwhile getting there for the start of play as wickets continued to tumble.

Middlesex were all out by 12 noon on Day 2 for 168, a small but handy lead over Durham of 25.

Graham Onions was their main tormentor, recording figures of 7 for 62. Lords2

So, half the matches innings had been completed and it had taken only 3 and a half sessions to reach this stage.

Unfortunatley there was barely time to grab a quick coffee before more wickets fell as Durham‘s second innings continued in similar fashion to the first, with opener Mark Stoneman caught behind for a duck, his superb form earlier in the season deserting him of late. Fellow opener Keaton Jennings was also out early on for just two runs and with Durham still behind the situation was looking desperate. Scott Borthwick played some good strokes in an entertaining innings but was bowled or played on to Irish bowler Tim Murtagh just as he had got into his stride, for 26 runs. Ben Stokes added some respectability to the Durham score with a watchful knock  in partnership with Will Smith who contributed 30 runs of his own, in fact Durham were 97-3 at one stage, then lost Smith before captain Paul Collingwood was bowled by West Indian Corey Collymore for a duck, his average to poor form for Durham continuing this season.

Just when it looked like Durham would set Middlesex a lowish but tricky total two quick Lords3wickets fell. Part time spin bowler Olly Raynor had been brought into the attack and Ben Stokes having just brought up his half century could not resist coming down the wicket and heaving him into the stands. Unfortunatley he missed the ball, was out of his ground and then stumped by keeper Neil Simpson for 51. Raynor then struck again dismissing Michael Richardson for 0, the batsman visibly angry with himself as he stormed back to the pavilion, shaking his head and admonishing himself for chasing a wide ball. The innings then tailed off disapointingly as the remaining wickets fell quickly, barring a small partnership between Callum Thorp and keeper batsman Phil Mustard. Mustard played a very sensible innings and looked in good touch, unfortunatley he ran out of partners and was left frustrated on 30 not out, Durham all out for 171. Middlesex only needed 144 to win, but on a bowler friendly wicket there was still a glimmer of hope that Durham could pull a win out of he bag. By the end of day two that hope had evaporated, Middlesex closing on 100 for 2 and only needing 44 to win with 8 wickets left and two days to do it in. Aussie Adam Voges reached 32 not out and although Durham got both openers out they were unable to make further inroads, two or three particularly strong appeals for wickets being turned down by the umpires. Common sense would have allowed another 30 mins or so play on the night to try to finish the game in the sun as runs were flowing quickly,but crickets stubborn rulebook meant it was a  case of players and supporters having to return on Sunday for the remaining small passage of play. The pink shirted Middlesex fans (their one day colours)left Lords already toasting their victory.

It had been another glorious day on Saturday following on from Friday‘s good weather, theLords4 pints at Lords being priced at a steep £4.60 for a Fosters or Marstons Smooth. Lords is a fantastic stadium, up there in the top three in the country for me along with Trent Bridge Nottingham and of course the Riverside at Chester le Street. A downside though is not being able to access some of the indoor bars or facilities without adhering to the dress code or smart shirt and tie, trousers and shoes. I can sort of understand exclusive areas in a Test match but it seems a bit over the top to me for a County game with a small ground. Lords is full of tradition though and likes to stay true to those traditions. Shame the same can‘t be said about a certain football club with an NE1 4ST postcode.

Middlesex completed the win with 6 wickets remaining on Sunday morning, Irish England player Eoin Morgan finishing on 39 not out.

The defeat was a big blow at the time to Durhams title hopes, however results from the Lords5other contenders matches turned out to be favourable, leaders Yorkshire only drawing with Warwickshire to slightly extend their points lead, and second place Sussex suffering a shock reverse to previously winless Derbyshire,having now played two games more than Durham.

Graham Onions form earned him a recall to the England squad announced after this match for the 4th test  at Chester le Street and a chance of playing at his home ground in the Ashes. Fingers crossed that he is selected in the team rather than carrying the drinks. In another era with less gifted England bowlers around and without his injury struggles that saw him sidelined for a season, Graham would surely have a large number of caps by now and I would argue he should be in the side on merit ahead of Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan anyway. He continues to perform superbly for Durham if England dont need him. Englands loss has been Durhams gain the past few seasons.

My brother who currently resides in London and works for the Beeb, and a friend 0riginally from Bedlington but now also based there showed me round the sights of Liverpool Street at night. The area is quite up market which was a shock to me after booking a reasonably priced TravelLodge pretty much at random as long as it was in London. Despite the posh bits there are still plenty of normal pubs around where you can have a quiet pint of good quality beer at reasonable prices, the White Hart turning out to be a particular favourite with its good choice of real ales and helpful staff, plus it was two minutes from the hotel. Other joints visited in the area were the classy sounding ‘Dirty Dicks’, which resembled a cave, the Bull, the George, the Railway, and Woodins shades.(not sure what that means). I also stumbled across a late bar which sold no pints, no bottles, no Lords6beers full stop. The barman was preparing cocktails so not knowing what to get I ordered  a JD and coke. I handed over a fiver thinking that’l be enough and was told ‘9 quid mate’. Too shocked to question if there was a mistake I stumped up £9 FOR A SINGLE JD AND COKE! The place to name and shame was Be at One, somewhere off Liverpool Street. Obviously designed for high earning and image conscious city boys and girls and not the likes of me.

With the game finishing unexpectedly early, previous plans went out of the window.

The free Sunday and Monday were spent watching the rest of the Test match (the parts Lords7that werent interrupted by rain) in the George, complete with frustrated Aussies watching on in front of me, plus many more trips to the White Hart for various real ales.

I also found a nearby 24 hour cafe serving up all the grub or coffee you could want at 3am on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Always enjoy London but couldnt imagine living there, cant afford it anyway so problem solved.

Might come back next year though if Durham play at Lords again.

Then it was off to Northamptonshire for the Durham lads (not me i was back home and watching on telly) for their 20/20 quarter final match on Tuesday evening. Even though Northants had topped their group to qualify and we had scraped through ours in third I really thought we would win this one and was half thinking about whether I could afford Lords8the trip to Edgbaston for finals day. I was probably fooled by their second division county status however as Northants won with something to spare after winning the toss and batting first .Ex Durham batsman and Scot Kyle Koetzer set the ball rolling with 44 off 40 balls before being run out. David Willey, son of Peter Willey the former test match umpire and England international from the North East (remember the classic commentary line: the batsmans Holding the bowlers Willey, or was it the other way round)added 46 and White made 58 not out from just 32 balls. Northants clocked up a score of 183 for 4 from their twenty overs which proved too much for Durham. Despite another half century from Ben Stokes and good contributions from Gordon Muchall and Phil Mustard, Durham finished on 147 for 6, and missed out on the finals day again having only qualified for it once in the 10 or so seasons of T20. Even though they showed promising signs this year it is still a format of the game Durham are yet to master. It so happens to be my least preferred cricket format.

Next up for Durham are three successive away matches in the Pro 40 starting with a game against Scotland at Glasgow. Durham currently top their group and will need to stay there to guarentee a semi final place.

A bad few days for Durham but still all to play for in two competitions. For anyone wishing to attend Durham next home game it is a four day match against Surrey in the County Championship starting on Thursday 22nd August,thats if they have managed to tidy up the ground by then after the mayhem of the Ashes test.