Stokes fires before Lancashire fight back
A brilliant Ben Stokes century may not be enough for Durham as Lancashire made good progress in pursuit of 200 by the end of the third day of their LV= County Championship match at Durham Emirates ICG.
Stokes struck a fluent 121 to build a lead of 199 for the hosts, but the reigning champions were on course to haul that in after reaching 56 for one by stumps.
After carrying his bat in the first innings, Paul Horton fell lbw to Graham Onions' first ball of Lancashire’s chase, but Stephen Moore and Karl Brown played with surprising fluency for the remaining 15.5 overs.
Durham's lack of support for Onions was underlined when Steve Harmison came on first change and his first three balls cost 11 runs.
The former England paceman did follow up with three maidens but he will need to take wickets on the final day if Durham are to haul themselves off the foot of the table.
Stokes' 121 was his first century since he made 185 against the same opposition last year before suffering a badly-dislocated finger later in the match. He played in only one more championship game in 2011.
Only Paul Collingwood offered prolonged support to Stokes in Durham's second-innings total of 267.
Collingwood never settled and was dropped at second slip by Ashwell Prince on 27 off Ajmal Shahzad, but battled on to contribute 50 in a stand of 132 after the pair came together when Durham had slipped from 53 for none to 71 for four.
Conditions continued to favour the seamers, prompting Glen Chapple to bowl a superb nine-over second spell either side of lunch, in which he was unlucky to take only two wickets.
Stokes enjoyed some early fortune, two inside edges narrowly missing leg stump. But with Collingwood's help he grafted through Chapple's spell and began to find the boundary with his powerful strokes.
Collingwood fell lbw to Kyle Hogg two balls after reaching his first fifty of the season, off 98 balls, only seven more than Stokes, who accelerated to reach his century off 148 deliveries with 13 fours.
Lancashire belatedly called on left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan and he was handed three wickets as the Durham tail folded.
Skipper Phil Mustard attempted a reverse sweep when he had made only three, resulting in a catch at slip.
With eight wickets down, Stokes decided to farm the strike and go for big hits off Kerrigan. He survived two chances before skying a top-edged sweep to long-leg.
Harmison then went first ball, lbw when trying to paddle Kerrigan around the corner.