Stokes propels Durham

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Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes, pictured, and Dale Benkenstein put Durham in control of their top-of-the-table clash against Lancashire with an unbroken 185 partnership. The former reached his century off the last ball of the day

Ben Stokes hit the last ball of the day for four to complete his third LV= County Championship century of the season as his unbroken stand of 185 with Dale Benkenstein put Durham in charge against Lancashire at the Emirates Durham ICG.

It was the third time this season the pair had shared a century stand and it tipped the balance in Durham’s favour in the clash of the top two. After the morning session was washed out, they closed the second day on 279 for three, 34 behind.

Benkenstein, who was unbeaten on 67 at stumps, and Stokes put on 140 in the first match of the year against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl then shared a stand of 170 in the last home match against Somerset.

Stokes played with great maturity as both batsmen reached 50 off 94 balls - Benkenstein’s half-century being his eighth in 12 innings - although the former did enjoy two slices of fortune.

On 55 he got an inside edge for four off Luke Procter which just missed his stumps, then on 84 he survived a sharp chance to Paul Horton at slip off Gary Keedy.

But the power Stokes demonstrated in his back-foot shots through the off-side was immense and the final one scorched to the extra cover boundary off Steven Croft to give him his 13th four. His second 50 came off only 55 balls.

A brief stoppage for bad light seemed to have done Durham no favours as within two overs of the restart they slipped from 90 for one to 94 for three.

Both Gordon Muchall and Will Smith were going well when umpires Martin Bodenham and Jeremy Lloyds decided to go off at 3.04pm.

They returned seven minutes later and there was just time for Muchall to complete his sixth championship half-century of the season before both batsmen departed.

Muchall had enjoyed some luck in racing to 50 off 59 balls as several of his nine fours came off the edge, particularly in Procter’s opening over, which cost 17 runs.

Muchall tried to cut the first ball and chopped it wide of the slips then edged the next two to the third man boundary. The first was just wide of the slips and the second bisected first and second.

Smith fell for 30 when he drove wide of the off stump at Procter and edged to wicketkeeper Gareth Cross. Then Muchall was lbw for 54 when half forward to Tom Smith.

After having Michael Di Venuto caught behind in the third over, Glen Chapple returned for a second spell early in Stokes’ innings, but even he could make little impression against the richly-talented left-hander.

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