GRAHAM Onions hailed Durham’s bowling attack after putting the leaders within reach of a momentous County Championship victory over second-top Lancashire at Liverpool.
The visitors began today needing another 154 runs to secure victory, having bowled out the hosts for 282 in their second inning’s , but they face a real battle after losing three wickets before last night’s close.
And Onions says a lot of credit must go to the Durham bowlers, who were made to work much harder after racing through the Lancashire batting attack in the first innings when they dismissed them for just 84.
He said: “When you watch and see so many wickets fall the previous day, you do feel under pressure to bowl them out for as little again, but yesterday batting looked a bit easier.
“It looked as if the wicket had dried out a bit and we had to work hard.
“Callum Thorp bowled brilliantly on day one, backed up by everyone else.
“I think yesterday Ian Blackwell and Stephen Harmison bowled well and tied them down a bit when it looked like they could’ve got on top of us.”
Onions himself was no slouch in the bowling department – finishing with 4-74 from 15.2 overs.
In reply, Durham’s run chase got off to a shaky start as Kyle Hogg struck twice and Sajid Mahmood once before the close.
Hogg trapped Michael Di Venuto (seven) and Gordon Muchall (eight) lbw to leave the score at 23-2 in the seventh over of the visiting side’s second innings.
Mahmood then had nightwatchman Onions brilliantly caught at third slip by Steven Croft as Durham closed on 27-3 from 10 dramatic overs, needing another 154 to win.
A Durham win would extend their lead at the top of Division One to 23 points. Onions believes they are still in the driving seat, although he knows it won’t be easy after the loss of three quick wickets.
He added: “We need to hang on and do a good job. It shouldn’t be too tricky but Lancashire are a good side and they’re not second in the table for nothing. We’ve got to make sure we do all the right things and we’re quietly confident.”
Day two was not quite as action-packed as Monday’s first day, when 20 wickets fell, but 13 still went down.
The Red Rose county will go into day three with plenty of hope after Hogg’s efforts with the new ball, even though Durham are still marginal favourites.
Onions, Steve Harmison and first-day hero Callum Thorp were made to work harder for their wickets during Lancashire’s second innings because, as expected, batting conditions eased.
Only two Lancashire batsmen made it into double figures when they were bowled out for 84 in the first innings but each of their top six achieved that feat second time around.
Opener Paul Horton hit 64 from 100 balls before Luke Procter batted expertly with the lower order to record only his second Championship fifty, a well-made 52 off 105 balls.
Onions and Harmison shared six wickets. Onions finished with four for 74 from 15.2 overs to bowl Lancashire out for 282.
Lancashire’s Horton and Stephen Moore had shared 58 for the first wicket before Horton and Karl Brown (37) added 54 for the second to take the score to 112 for two early in the afternoon session.
Brown was one of four wickets to fall during the middle session of the day, in which Harmison was particularly impressive with an accurate seven-over spell yielding two wickets.
He trapped Mark Chilton (23) lbw as he played to leg and had Croft (26) caught at gully by Thorp as he loosely drove after being wayward yesterday and earlier today.
Onions had Moore (14) caught at cover by Scott Borthwick before bowling both Gareth Cross (eight) and Mahmood (eight) off inside edges after tea to leave the score at 220 for seven in the 71st over.
Borthwick also got Hogg caught at short-leg but Procter swept, deflected and flicked his way to his 103-ball half-century.
Pakistani tail-ender Junaid Khan helped to nudge the lead above 150 with a straight six off the leg-spin of Borthwick before Procter was also bowled off an inside edge by Thorp, who had earlier trapped Horton in front.
Onions wrapped up the innings when he bowled Junaid (16) with the second new ball.
Durham pair Will Smith (eight not out) and Paul Collingwood (two not out) will resume at the start of day three.