Stoneman points way for Durham

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POINTS may mean prizes, but batsman Mark Stoneman says the bigger picture remains Durham’s priority.

Opener Stoneman made 96 as he helped the hosts post a first innings total of 245 on day one of their County Championship clash with Sussex.

That meant Durham picked up just one batting bonus point from a possible five, falling just five runs short of a second.

Durham went into yesterday’s clash just five and a half points behind Division One leaders Yorkshire, and with this their game in hand on the Tykes, every point is crucial.

But Stoneman says the squad cannot afford to get distracted by the mathematical possibilities.

“Sixteen points for the win is what you are really aiming for,” he said.

“Batting bonus points are always nice, but they are never easy to come by here.

“If we start worrying about a point here, and a point there, we can take our eye of the ball in terms of the bigger picture.

“And also if you’re moving forward looking at where you need to pick up points you can get yourself tangled up, and tie yourself in knots worrying about things rather than just playing the game as it develops.”

While Durham fell short of a second batting point, Stoneman himself narrowly missed out on a chance to make it back-to-back tons in his last two four-day games.

But the 26-year-old was looking to the positives.

“It would have been nice to get another milestone up there,” he admitted.

“But, at the same time, I could have been sat on my backside for 44, so taking that let off and making it into 96 was a plus.

“And we’ve got a decent total on the board, so that’s the main thing I got a bit of an inside edge. It just swung back a little bit, and it the inside half of the bat and then on to the stumps.

“These things happen. You’d take 96 every day opening the batting, so not to worry.”

Stoneman was one of a hat-trick of scalps to fall Lewis Hatch, who took 3-5 in a 20-ball spell. Steve Magoffin also took three wickets for the visitors, with James Anyon going one better with four.

Will Smith, Michael Richardson and youngster Usman Arshad all got starts for Durham with the bat, before perishing in their 30s.

The home side went into the game without the bowling services of Mark Wood and Jamie Harrison through injury, and all-rounder Ben Stokes, who played in England’s one-day international win over Ireland.

However, they were boosted by the return of main attack bowler Graham Onions from a broken finger, and recalled Mitch Claydon from a three-month loan spell with Kent for the match.

Both bowlers made what could be vital early inroads into the Sussex batting line-up.

Having gone for eight runs in the previous over, England star Onions struck back with a double-wicket maiden in the next six balls to account for Chris Nash (19), and Michael Yardy, who went for a third-ball duck.

Before the start of play, it was announced that Claydon would be leaving Durham at the end of the season, but the seamer still gave his all, bowling Joe Gatting with his second ball of the game.