<
>

Craig Miles does the hard yards but England substitutions steal centre stage

Craig Miles celebrates a wicket with his team-mates Getty Images

Durham 173 for 5 (Bedingham 37*, Miles 4-42) trail Warwickshire 237 (Yates 102, Raine 3-51, Stokes 3-55) by 64 runs

It's probably wise, given the unpredictable charm of our great game, not to make too many assumptions ahead of the final day of any match. But it does seem safe to suspect this encounter between Warwickshire and Durham will not be remembered as a classic.

That it may be memorable at all is largely due to the fact that three players (Ben Stokes and Brydon Carse from the Durham team and Danny Briggs from Warwickshire's) were called into the England squad ahead of the third day's play and three substitutions made in their place. A generation ago, such a move would have been unthinkable. Many of us still bristle a little at the County Championship's relegation in the order of things.

But the world moves on. And this solution, though imperfect, was probably the least bad option. Without the revenue guaranteed by international cricket, the domestic game would be unsustainable. So these sacrifices must be made. You hope, though, that the symbiotic nature of the relationship is appreciated. County cricket needs England, for sure. But England needs county cricket, too. You hope that's never forgotten.

As it was, in conditions which rarely rose above grim, Durham's batters took their team to the brink of a first batting bonus point. Sounds pretty inconsequential, doesn't it? But it was tough, attritional cricket. And with the points gained for a draw having increased to eight this season, there was some purpose to it. In a match which has now lost a day-and-a-half to the weather (there were 49 overs lost on Tuesday to add to the entire first day), little more can be achieved.

Craig Miles, at least, enjoyed a decent day. While the pitch had little pace, it did offer a little low bounce. So Miles, bowling admirably straight, nagged at that off stump and has so far claimed four wickets (all either bowled or leg before) and will resume (weather permitting) on the final day with a decent chance of recording a second successive five-wicket haul in Championship matches.

The ball beat the bat often in the first hour. But while Cameron Bancroft appeared to struggle with his balance, the nightwatchmen Matty Potts played impressively straight and lost little by comparison.

Eventually Potts played-on off the inside edge - a victim, perhaps, of that low bounce - before Bancroft was caught on the back leg by one which was angled into him. Scott Borthwick also fell victim to some low bounce, another inside-edge hitting the stumps, before Sean Dickson played across a straight one.

Perhaps Warwickshire were a little unfortunate from that point. The ball was changed in the second over of the Durham innings (on Monday night) after it became lodged under a temporary structure designed for match announcers at limited-overs games. As a result, they had to settle for one that was about 10 overs old. Later in the Durham innings, with the ball soft and the movement having all but disappeared, it might have shown. David Bedingham took full advantage with another impressive contribution, though Rob Yates, at gully, put down a tough chance offered off his outside edge when he had 19. Liam Norwell was the unfortunate bowler.

In an ideal world, Warwickshire would have drafted a spinner into the side. For while the pitch is slow, it does offer some surprisingly large footmarks with which a spinner might have some fun. But, with Jacob Bethell and Dan Mousley injured and Alex Thomson having moved to Derbyshire, the only fit one on the staff was Jake Lintott, a left-arm leggie and recent Hundred wildcard pick who has never played a first-class game. It was therefore probably understandable that, in what appears likely to be a low-scoring game, he was not risked. With seamers such as Tim Bresnan (calf), Olly Hannon-Dalby (heel), Henry Brookes (quad), Olly Stone (back) and Chris Woakes (England) all unavailable, seam-bowling all-rounder Ethan Brookes (Henry's younger brother) was called into the side. He bowled tidily enough.

Durham's options were equally limited. Their spin option, Liam Trevaskis, was also isolating, so they brought in two batters in Graham Clarke and, who was already at the ground, and Jack Burnham, who arrived at around 3pm. Given that this game looks destined to be limited to a one-innings affair where first-innings bonus points are the ultimate prize, that may be no bad thing.

"Tomorrow is still a huge day for us in the context of our season," a remarkably upbeat James Franklin, the Durham first-team coach, said afterwards. "If we can have a good batting morning, that will provide is with a big opportunity to go into next week with a whole lot to play for."

Spare a thought for Sam Hain, though. Despite that vast List A average (59.78; nobody with a minimum of 20 List A innings in history averages more), despite that ever-improving strike-rate (140.19 in the Blast this year and 86.46 in List A cricket over his career) and despite the unavailability of a dozen more experienced limited-overs batters, he finds himself unable to find room in what amounts to a second XI squad.

On one hand, it reflects well on the depth of England's white-ball batting. On the other, it is a crushing disappointment for an unassuming 25-year-old who has tried to let his bat do his talking. He could be forgiven if, only for a day or two, he spent some time reflecting on what more he could have done. The answer is very little. Hain is desperately unfortunate.

Durham 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st14CT BancroftMA Jones
2nd68CT BancroftMJ Potts
3rd7SG BorthwickCT Bancroft
4th46SG BorthwickDG Bedingham
5th5DG BedinghamSR Dickson
6th73EJH EckersleyDG Bedingham
7th7DG BedinghamJTA Burnham
8th33G ClarkDG Bedingham

County Championship

Division 1
TeamMWLDPT
NOTTS431068
LANCS421157
WARKS421156
HANTS421153
YORKS412140
SOM404014
Division 2
TeamMWLDPT
ESSEX430177
GLOUC431064
DURH311140
NHNTS412138
SURR301227
GLAM403123
Division 3
TeamMWLDPT
KENT440083
MIDDX431067
WORCS422049
LEICS412143
DERBS412142
SUSS404018
Group 1
TeamMWLDPT
NOTTS10424151
WARKS10415145
DURH10325132
ESSEX10325129
WORCS10136109
DERBS1005572
Group 2
TeamMWLDPT
SOM10415148
HANTS10424145
GLOUC10532131
SURR10226123
LEICS10244111
MIDDX1027184
Group 3
TeamMWLDPT
LANCS10415150
YORKS10514149
GLAM10226127
NHNTS10334123
KENT1003797
SUSS1015494