MARK Stoneman admitted he had to dig deep as he delivered another century for Durham to get their LV County Championship clash with Sussex off to a good start yesterday.
Stoneman struck his third ton of the season before lower order runs helped Durham to a decent total on day one of their Division One clash.
The left-handed opener, nicknamed Rocky, struck 16 fours and a six in his 113, but once he fell, with the total at 202 for seven, it appeared Durham would post a sub-par total after winning the toss at Chester-le-Street.
But new man John Hastings contributed a gritty 51, while Sunderland-born pair Paul Coughlin and Chris Rushworth put on 47 for the last wicket to lift the total to 337 all out, with Sussex closing on 20 without loss in reply.
It represented a decent day for Durham, especially after they had been reeling at 30-3 at one stage.
Stoneman admitted the match started off tough but got easier as the ball bedded in.
He said: “The first 45 minutes were probably the hardest I’ve had this season. The bowling was very accurate and there wasn’t a lot to score off.
“It got easier as the ball started to get softer, but they got it changed straight after lunch and the replacement was harder and bounced more.”
While Steve Magoffin, moving the ball both ways, was comfortably the best Sussex bowler but only claimed one wicket, with Lewis Hatchett taking five for 113.
He made the early breakthrough when Keaton Jennings was caught behind, while he had Mark Richardson trapped in front after Scott Borthwick had departed for 10 to leave Durham struggling.
Ben Stokes showed signs of getting back to his best in reaching 32 at lunch as he and Stoneman resurrected the innings, putting on a 102-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
Stoneman brought up his half-century shortly after the lunch interval with back-to-back boundaries off Steffan Piolet but Stokes was becalmed on the resumption and miscued to mid-on for 36 to give Hatchett his third wicket.
Captain Paul Collingwood and Gordon Muchall fell cheaply although Stoneman profited heavily from the cut and pull when Hatchett and Piolet, included as an extra seamer at the expense of Matt Machan, were often guilty of dropping short.
He moved to his century in 129 balls with a couple of runs off Piolet but was dismissed when he edged Jon Lewis to Tredwell, who took a fine catch at second slip.
Durham looked to be struggling, but Hastings provided the perfect example of how to capitalise after carefully playing himself in, taking 25 balls to get off the mark and 49 deliveries later he reached 50 through authentic strokeplay.
Once the Australian was bowled by Lewis, it was left to Coughlin and Rushworth to take the total past 300. On his Championship debut against Lancashire last week, Coughlin dominated a record ninth-wicket stand of 150 with Phil Mustard. This time he played second fiddle as Rushworth bludgeoned 32 off 18 balls before becoming Hatchett’s fifth victim after edging behind. It was the left-armer’s second five-wicket haul, four years after the first.
Batting looked to be easiest in the evening sunshine and Sussex openers Chris Nash and Luke Wells safely negotiated the six overs they had to face, although Rushworth posed a few problems.