Durham's title push on hold
Durham’s title push was left treading water at Riverside as the first day of their crucial LV County Championship Division One match against champions Sussex was abandoned.
Captain Dale Benkenstein admitted to a “helpless” feeling, wading through the puddles and squelch in the knowledge already - just before the scheduled start - that for the eighth day of the last scheduled nine there would be no play at Durham’s HQ.
Benkenstein's team therefore had to contemplate the prospect of other title contenders making headway elsewhere, with the penultimate round of matches getting under way around the country.
Sussex could also ill afford the washout - Chris Adams’ visitors are in a position from which they could yet be relegated or even successfully defend their title, such is the congested nature of a table in which four points covered the top four this morning.
For Benkenstein at least, though, all is far from lost - at a venue where positive outcomes are known to be possible in a short space of time.
“There’s just nothing more we can do,” he said, accepting umpires Peter Willey and Mike Harris’ decision that there was no prospect of play today.
“The groundstaff have tried everything to try to get the field fit, but there’s just standing water everywhere.
“But the weather looks pretty good over the next few days, so we’re hoping to get three good days in.”
Benkenstein reports that the square - which attracted unwanted attention when Durham beat Kent in little more than two days early last month - is in better shape than it was then.
But he nonetheless acknowledges this match is likely to progress quickly, once play begins.
“There’s a huge amount of work for the groundstaff to do to try to get the outfield clear, but the good news is the pitch looks fine,” said the 34-year-old ex-South Africa one-day international batsman.
“They’ve brought in a few extra things that I’ve never seen, just to try to get us on the field.
“They’ve rented the equipment from a company that dry football fields out if there is a lot of rain - which just shows the club are trying everything to get us on the field.
“You can’t cover the whole field - so with the water table so high, there’s nothing you can do about the outfield, with heaps of puddles all over.
“But it has definitely helped with the wicket. It looks a lot drier than it did a few days ago.”
Durham had to sweat for several hours over the possibility of a points deduction in a hearing about the state of the pitch in that narrow, low-scoring victory over Kent.
But Benkenstein is confident the surface is much-improved.
“Everyone’s happy with it, the umpires - and the pitch guys from Lord’s are also happy with the wicket,” he said.
“There’ll be a bit of life in it when we get on. There’s always a chance of a result here at the Riverside, so we’ve still got our hopes up.
“If we play good cricket, we’re still in with a chance.”
Benkenstein admits, though, that predominantly dry weather - at Riverside too - today means the frustration of reading scorecards in which title rivals are banking points.
“It does leave you a little bit helpless when you can’t get on the field and other guys are playing,” he said.
“But if that’s the case there’s just nothing really we can do.”