Benkenstein thwarts Somerset

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Ben Phillips & Somerset

Ben Phillips traps Michael Di Venuto in front to leave Durham two down, but they recovered courtesy of Dale Benkenstein

Somerset’s title quest was delayed by rain until mid-afternoon at the Emirates Durham ICG, and they suffered further frustration after quickly removing both Durham openers.

Dale Benkenstein adopted a positive attitude in an attempt to shake off his lean run and made an unbeaten 71 as Durham recovered from 33 for two to reach 132 for two from 40 overs at the close.

Alfonso Thomas was particularly unlucky as he regularly beat the bat but remained wicketless as Gordon Muchall survived to reach 23.

Play began at 3.25pm and, in the fifth over, Mark Stoneman worked two short balls from left-armer Charl Willoughby to the midwicket boundary with well-timed shots, but then edged an excellent ball from the seamer to wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter to depart for 15.

Three overs later Michael Di Venuto fell for 15 when he continued his recent habit of being pinned lbw on the crease, beaten by a modicum of swing from Ben Phillips.

Durham dropped Mitch Claydon and handed a debut to West Indian paceman Ruel Brathwaite, who was registered last week in view of six seamers being injured.

Brathwaite, 25, has played for Loughborough and Cambridge UCCEs and has appeared for Durham Seconds this season, while also playing for Blackheath in the Kent League.

Phil Mustard decided against pitching Brathwaite straight into action when he elected to bat, although it must have been a tricky decision given the amount of moisture around.

The match was being played on the same strip as last week’s one-day international, which may have influenced the decision.

Benkenstein had a first-class average of 51.71 over his first five seasons with Durham, but he came into this game averaging 31.6 this campaign.

In the 17th over he twice drove Willoughby to the cover boundary then edged a third four through the slips. He followed up with a back-foot four through the covers in the next over off Phillips.

Thomas came on for the 21st over and in his third he posed all kinds of problems for Benkenstein, who almost played on with his score on 25.

The batsman had progressed to 39 when Thomas nipped one back sharply, just missing leg stump and evading Kieswetter to add four byes to the total.

Thomas conceded only 13 in seven overs but Willoughby continued to leak runs at almost six an over.

Benkenstein cut Willoughby for his ninth four to complete a 77-ball half-century with the vast majority of his runs coming on the off side.

With extra time being played on the first three days to allow Somerset an early getaway on Thursday, play continued until 6.15pm.

Somerset are booked on a plane from Newcastle to London at 7pm on Thursday, allowing them a full day to prepare for the Clydesdale Bank 40 final against Warwickshire at Lord’s.