NO EASING up. That was the message from Durham bowler Graham Onions last night.
The title-chasing hosts increased their strangehold on day two of their County Championship clash at the Emirates ICG.
But Onions says the home side cannot afford to show the visitors any mercy as they look to claim what would be a vital victory in their chase for the First Division crown.
Having skittled out Sussex for 112 yesterday, Durham finished on 212-6 at stumps which, added to their first innings total of 245, gave them an overnight lead of 345.
For Sussex to overcome such a second innings target they would need to set a new record at the Emirates ICG, and also improve considerably on their first-innings showing.
But Onions says Durham aren’t about to hang up their bats in declaration and give the away side that opportunity just yet.
“We haven’t discussed a declaration yet,” he revealed.
“We have still got a few batters left, so, obviously, the more runs the better for us. There’s rumours that the weather isn’t going to be great on Friday, so we are going to try to push the run rate up and get ourselves further in front.
“It’s important that you don’t look to far ahead. and obviously Friday will come around quickly enough.
“So today we have to make sure we keep pushing on.”
While he feels Durham will look to add to their overnight tally, he doesn’t think it will be too long before he has ball in hand again.
And the England man says it is important that he and his fellow bowlers don’t ease up.
“If we work hard we can put their batsmen under pressure, and we have already shown in this match that when we do that, they didn’t cope to well,” said Onions.
“So we have to look to do that again.
“We have to bowl as well as we can as a unit, which I thought we did excellently yesterday, and try to skittle them out.”
Onions marked his return to action from almost three weeks out due to a broken finger, with excellent figures of 4-50.
And while he felt there was more to come on a personal level, he was quick to praise his fellow bowlers, including Mitch Claydon (3-25) and Usman Arshad (3-16).
He added: “If I’m being brutally honest I didn’t bowl as well as I could have, but that’s probably understandable.
I haven’t bowled for quite a while and the rhythm wasn’t quite there, but I thought (Chris) Rushworth bowled a superb spell yesterday morning, (without getting a wicket).
“He deserved some rewards, but I said to him if he bowls as well in the second innings he will get those rewards.
Uzzy (Arshad) bowled extremely well, and it was nice for Mitch (Claydon) to get a couple of wickets as well, he certainly deserved them.”
Arshad, playing his second first-class match, must have felt it was easy when he took three for 16 with his brisk medium pace and he later opened up with a straight six off Chris Nash on his way to 16 not out.
Skipper Paul Collingwood (45) and wicketkeeper Phil Mustard (57 not out) steadied the ship for Durham, who found themselves at 90-5 in their second innings.
When Mustard went to the crease, 12 wickets had fallen on day two in 49 overs but only one went down in the remaining 45.
The Wearsider spent 137 balls making his unbeaten 57 and put on 93 in 36 overs for the sixth wicket with Collingwood.
Durham led by 133 after the first innings and, after his 96 in the first innings, opening batsman Mark Stoneman again started fluently before a ball from James Anyon which kept low had him lbw for 21.
The rest of the top five fell to edged catches, all after making starts.
Nash was in his 10th over of off spin and had conceded only 13 when Collingwood tried to work him to leg off the back foot and was lbw for 45.
Should Durham secure the win, they will leapfrog Yorkshire to lead the Division One table.