DURHAM were in a dominant position going into the third day of their LV County Championship Division One match against Middlesex at Lord’s.
Despite the fourth-ball loss of opener Keaton Jennings for a duck on their way to reaching 28 for one in their second innings before the close last night, Durham had extended their lead to 129 after dismissing Middlesex for 276 in reply to their first innings effort of 377.
Phil Mustard, opening in place of Mark Stoneman, who is nursing a sore hip, went quickly to 21 not out and Scott Borthwick, who began the day by reaching 176 in Durham’s first innings, was unbeaten on seven.
Victory for the visitors would all but ensure Durham’s Division One status with two Championship rounds still to be played, while defeat for Middlesex would leave them to fight it out with Lancashire to avoid Division One’s second relegation place.
After taking the three wickets needed to dismiss Durham early on day two, Middlesex lost both Chris Rogers (eight) and Sam Robson, bowled for 15 to Sunderland-born paceman Chris Rushworth, while Ben Stokes took the wicket of Eoin Morgan for 25, well-held low down by Borthwick at second slip.
However, Dawid Malan stood firm, the mercurial left-hander who turned 27 a week ago, stroked no fewer than 21 fours in his third score in the 90s this season – passing 1,000 Championship runs for the campaign in the process.
There were also 11 fours in his first 51 runs – his half-century took just 68 balls and he batted for 140 balls and three hours.
At 166-3, with Malan seemingly sailing serenely to a third hundred of the season with a series of flowing drives, Middlesex looked to be making a decent fist of their reply.
But Malan’s dismissal, edging the deserving Stokes to keeper Mustard as he shaped to cut, proved to be the turning point of the day, with five wickets falling for just 36 runs inside 12 overs as Middlesex slid to 202 for eight after tea.
Neil Dexter (14) edged Peter Chase low to first slip, and the 20-year-old seamer then claimed John Simpson, leg before for six in his next over, as he ended up with two for 47.
John Hastings had Ollie Rayner (eight) athletically held by Borthwick at second slip, diving to his right, and Paul Stirling fell for 16 when he was caught on the crease and leg-before to the bustling Rushworth.
It took a ninth-wicket stand of 74 in 15 overs between Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh to haul Middlesex past the follow on target of 228 and, as the partnership flourished amid some meaty shots from Roland-Jones in particular, to a second batting point.
On 49, though, Roland-Jones was trapped lbw by Paul Collingwood, and – four balls later – Borthwick bowled Murtagh behind his legs for 24 as the tail ender tried to sweep.
Durham, who resumed day two on 348-7, lost their last three wickets for just 29 runs in the first half-hour.
Borthwick, on 169 not out overnight, scored seven more runs before top-edging a hook off Steven Finn to long leg and, next ball, after the batsmen had crossed, Hastings edged to second slip.
When Rushworth fell cheaply to Murtagh, giving the seamer his fifth wicket of the innings at a personal cost of 106 runs, Durham had failed by 23 to reach 400 and a final batting bonus point.