Middlesex ahead as seamers prosper
A stand of 32 between Gareth Berg and Ollie Rayner tipped the balance back in Middlesex's favour as they reached 144 for seven in reply to Durham's 102 on the first day of the LV= County Championship Division One match at the Emirates Durham ICG.
With Ben Stokes taking three wickets and holding a fine catch at gully to get rid of Chris Rogers for 59, Middlesex had slipped from 67 for one to 112 for six.
But Berg followed his three-wicket haul by reaching 30 at the close as conditions eased in the evening sunshine after 15 wickets had fallen inside 70 overs.
The dismissal of Rayner, who fell to Scott Borthwick’s first ball in the final over of the day ensured Durham finished on a high after a trying morning.
It was a good toss for Middlesex to win prior to unleashing their four-man seam attack, who bowled impressively on a pitch which offered them help but was certainly no minefield.
With England selector James Whitaker watching on, Steven Finn and Durham counterpart Graham Onions each bowled well en route to respective figures of 2-17 and 1-36.
The clatter of wickets began in the third over when Will Smith shouldered arms to a ball from Tim Murtagh which brushed his pad and earned an lbw verdict.
Gordon Muchall was run out by a deflection off Murtagh's boot at the non-striker's end as Durham slipped to 24 for four before Paul Collingwood shared a stand of 30 with Dale Benkenstein.
That ended when the ex-captain shaped to pull Toby Roland-Jones from off stump and lobbed a catch to mid-on. Without addition Collingwood drove at Finn in the next over and edged to first slip.
Wicketkeeper Michael Richardson, deputising for knee injury victim Phil Mustard, top-scored with 22 before becoming the last Durham batsman to fall.
In Middlesex's reply Rogers rode his luck and reached 50 by slicing Onions just out the reach of gully for his eighth four.
He was reluctant to depart when a repeat of the shot resulted in Stokes' low catch, apparently believing the ball had not carried.
Collingwood held three catches at first slip, two of them off Stokes, who also had Eoin Morgan lbw for a duck when the England batsman played round a ball which skidded on to him.