Hughes stays in the groove
Run-hungry Phil Hughes made a smooth transition from the Friends Life t20 to the LV= County Championship as Worcestershire and Durham battled for supremacy in between the showers at New Road.
With 86 overs lost in the match so far, the meeting of the only Division One teams without a win this season only began to take shape with Alan Richardson’s return of 4-52 in Durham’s dismissal for 243.
Hughes, unbeaten with 52, and Daryl Mitchell produced an opening partnership of 63 as Worcestershire replied with 100 for two after Ben Stokes had interrupted their progress with wickets in successive overs.
Mitchell gave a straightforward catch behind the wicket and Vikram Solanki was lbw to the England Lions all-rounder as the home side closed the second day 143 behind.
Australia’s selectors were happy to see Hughes playing county cricket rather than naming him in their A team for a forthcoming tour that includes games against England Lions at Old Trafford and Edgbaston.
The move is paying off for all parties; the left-hander was the top Friends Life t20 batsman with 322 runs in Worcestershire’s march to the quarter-finals and his good form seems to be switching easily to the longer game.
This is only his second championship match since arriving at the end of May and, after a difficult start against Durham’s seamers, he completed his second half-century in three innings, with nine fours.
Durham watchers are desperately looking for signs of a revival, even if new captain Paul Collingwood is still unable to exert an influence on the field because of swelling in the hand that he fractured a month ago.
Rain delayed the restart until the afternoon and when Durham resumed with four wickets down for 127, there was no immediate cheer as Gareth Andrew fired out Dale Benkenstein and Michael Richardson.
At 150 for six, the northerners were looking for Phil Mustard to thrive now that he is without the concerns of captaincy.
Although Andrew uprooted Scott Borthwick’s leg stump in a spell of 3-33, Mustard continued to bat positively for 32 and it was a surprise when he got himself out, clipping a ball from Richard Jones straight to Hughes at deep square-leg.
But Durham were not finished. With Worcestershire’s supporting seamers becoming increasingly expensive, Callum Thorp and Graham Onions, with 30 and 25 not out respectively, put on 42 in seven overs.
In all, the ninth-wicket pair struck 11 boundaries between them and it was only when Worcestershire recalled Richardson that they were able to close the innings.
On his return from injury, the ever-consistent seamer found some bounce to have Thorp taken at third slip and then removed Chris Rushworth with a top edge held by Solanki behind the wicketkeeper.