Keaton Jennings gave the England selectors a timely nudge as Durham enjoyed the upper hand on the second day of their Specsavers County Championship Division Two match against Gloucestershire at Bristol. Although he missed out back-to-back hundreds, the left-hander top-scored with 87 as Durham, replying to the home side's first-innings 303, reached the close on 270 for four.
Eager to further press his international credentials after registering a hundred on debut for England against India in the fourth Test in Mumbai in December, Jennings took centre stage, sharing in a progressive opening stand of 114 with Stephen Cook.
Gloucestershire's bowlers staged a mini-revival in the final session but the visitors trail by 33 runs and, with six wickets in hand, are still handily-placed to forge a meaningful lead lead and apply pressure on the third day. In need of reassurance after a heavy defeat at the hands of Nottinghamshire, Durham's top-order batting restored lost pride against a Gloucestershire attack that lacked penetration on an essentially true pitch.
South Africa opener Cook looked supremely secure in raising 50 from 80 balls. A first Championship hundred appeared to be his for the taking when he inexplicably lost concentration and, pursuing a delivery outside off stump from Chris Liddle, edged to Cameron Bancroft at first slip.
Demonstrating sound temperament and technique, Jennings carried on regardless, ruthlessly exploiting Graeme van Buuren's slow-left-arm and punishing anything short or wide from seam bowlers who lacked consistency.
Durham opener Stephen Cook: "We needed that performance after what happened against Nottinghamshire. We have bounced back well from what was a disappointing result and played some good cricket in this match. We're in a good position at the halfway stage and, if we can kick on tomorrow, we have an opportunity to build a decent first-innings lead and put Gloucestershire under pressure."
Intent upon earning a place in the England squad for this summer's Test series against South Africa, the 24-year-old has improved his defensive game, and it came as a surprise when he got the thinnest of edges to a Chris Liddle delivery, falling 13 runs short of what would have been his second century of the season.
Losing their momentum thereafter, Durham slipped from the giddy heights of 183-1 to 214-4, Graham Clark and Cameron Steel out to Craig Miles in quick succession as the home side fought back after tea.
To repair the damage, experienced campaigners Paul Collingwood (28 not out) and Michael Richardson (25 not out) built an unbroken partnership of 57 for the fifth wicket as Gloucestershire's bowlers sought to apply late pressure. Watchful in the extreme, they negotiated 24 overs (eight of them against the new ball) to reach stumps without further mishap.
Finally afforded an opportunity after a blank first season on the county staff, former Sussex paceman Liddle adhered to the tenets of line and length without luck, proving the most consistent of Gloucestershire's front-line bowlers.
Gloucestershire head coach Richard Dawson: "I was pleased with the way we fought back during the final session. Our aim was to keep them under our total by the end of the day and we've done that. We took 3-90 in about 38 overs and will need to take a couple of early wickets to put them under pressure tomorrow. We have a hard ball that is only seven overs old and our aim will be to take wickets early."
Durham's seamers had started the day by making good use of the new ball. They mopped up the last three Gloucestershire wickets for 38 runs after the hosts resumed their first innings on 265-7. Jack Taylor and David Payne added 36 for the eighth wicket but, once the former edged Rushworth to second slip on 47, the innings unravelled rapidly.
No sooner had Gloucestershire banked a third batting bonus point than England bowlers Mark Wood and Graham Onions took care of business, removing Payne and last man Liddle in quick succession.