Durham suffer more pain and more rain

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FRESH new broom, same old story.

That was how thing panned out for Durham as the action got under way in their County Championship clash away to Worcestershire.

It was out with the old and in the new at the Emirates ICG last week – four-day skipper Phil Mustard axed and replaced by Paul Collingwood.

It is possibly expecting too much for the new regime to turn things around immediately, especially with Collingwood unable to play as he continues to recover from a fractured hand.

Collingwood had hoped to lead his players into action against a Worcestershire side just a point above Durham in a Division One table, which doesn’t make pretty reading for either side – Durham are rooted to the bottom with 36 points with Worcestershire a place and six points ahead of them, neither having managed a win in the 2012 championship.

However, after extra nets practice the all-rounder’s hand swelled up making him unable to play.

That meant former four-day skipper Dale Benkenstein led the troops into battle, and he may have to stand in again away to Sussex next week if Collingwood’s problem cannot be resolved, with head coach Geoff Cook admitting that they don’t know what is causing the problem as yet.

“Five days ago he thought he was definitely going to play, and then he upped his practice volume, and the hand swelled up again,” he said.

The visitors made a steady start with Mark Stoneman and Will Smith at the crease, but just as regular as Durham’s poor batting performances this season has been the bad weather.

So it proved at New Road, a rain break bringing the hosts a breakthrough, Smith (11) steering an Alan Richardson delivery to Moeen Ali.

South Shields-born Gordon Muchall joined Stoneman and the pair made it through to lunch on 63-1.

But in an afternoon interrupted by more downpours, Durham again lost their way – Stoneman (38) top-edged a pull off Richardson to Vikram Solanki, and Muchall (25) and Ben Stokes (22) both perished off the bowling of Jack Shantry.

Benkenstein (16 not out) and Michael Richardson, yet to score, were undefeated at the close as the visitors edged their way to 127-4 at the close.

It was a disappointing return in what surely is a crucial game for Cook’s men, but he praised his side for the way they dealt with the conditions.

“I thought Stoneman played a terrific innings which was highly skilful in tricky conditions so that was encouraging,” he said.