Stokes speeds Durham along
Contrasting hundreds from Dale Benkenstein and Ben Stokes ensured Durham more than held their own against fellow strugglers Kent on the second day of their LV= County Championship match at Canterbury.
Former South Africa batsman Benkenstein played tortoise - his hundred took almost four hours after he became marooned in the 90s for 14 overs - to 18-year-old Stokes’s hare as the visitors closed on 347 for six in reply to Kent’s 424.
Stokes, the England Under-19 international, followed his 106 against Nottinghamshire six days earlier with a sumptuous career-best 122 not out to leave Durham trailing by 77 runs.
While Benkenstein nudged and nurdled, Stokes took on a weakened Kent attack with drives and lusty pulls that reaped the left-hander 15 fours and two sixes.
The first session had belonged to Kent, who, through Makhaya Ntini, Azhar Mahmood and Amjad Khan, bowled tightly and intelligently to limit Durham to only 67 runs in 28 overs through to lunch.
Ntini trapped Kyle Coetzer leg before for 12 with an off-cutter as he pushed half-forward and, four overs later, Scott Borthwick steered to second slip after Ntini switched to around the wicket.
Kent should have had a third victim before lunch when Michael Di Venuto, on 32, edged a turning ball from Rob Ferley to slip, only to see Martin van Jaarsveld miss a chance by his left boot.
Ferley finally got his man 19 overs after the interval - bowled through the gate by one that turned sharply - but only after the Australian left-hander had contributed 67 to a third-wicket stand of 118 in 31 overs with Benkenstein.
After a breezy 17 Ian Blackwell chopped on aiming a back-foot force against Amjad Khan and, with Durham 165 for four, Kent appeared to fighting back.
However, Ferley lost his length and Stokes made hay. The New Zealand-born batsman took toll to hoist two full tosses for six over midwicket on his way to a 58-ball half-century as he and Benkenstein added 143 for the fifth wicket.
It took the second new ball to break the partnership as Benkenstein shouldered arms to Amjad’s first delivery back to lose his off stump and depart for a stoic 114 from 179 balls.
Durham captain Phil Mustard went soon after, driving at one angled across him to give Ntini a third wicket, but Stokes ploughed on until stumps to further endorse his status as a Test batsman in the making.