Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Ton to Relish as Opener Makes a Mark; THE MATCH: Durham V Yorkshire, Day Three

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Ton to Relish as Opener Makes a Mark; THE MATCH: Durham V Yorkshire, Day Three

Article excerpt

ANY runs at Durham's Chester-le-Street home are worth more than the scoreboard would suggest, but Mark Stoneman's century yesterday was more valuable still.

An opening-week win at home to Somerset had not calmed the natives.

They have been looking at the batting and struggling to see where the platform for winning scores will come from.

Stoneman gave an answer. Short of runs since his magnificent 2011, Dale Benkenstein weighed in with a valuable half-century too to set Yorkshire a 336-run victory target which ought to be beyond their reach.

Keaton Jennings and Will Smith are still to clear mental hurdles, but forties in this game will hopefully provide the confidence to attack them later. With the sun shining for the first two sessions, it was a good day to bat against Yorkshire.

Talk of marking their 150th anniversary with the Championship already looks like hubris from a county desperate to revive past glories but perhaps without the players to do so.

Yet, when you are as short of form and confidence as Durham's frontline batsmen have been this season (matches against students notwithstanding), anyone armed with a cricket ball represents a clear and present danger.

Stoneman and Jennings took a positive approach to seeing it off.

This year Stoneman has taken his hero Michael Di Venuto's squad number and adopted his habit of facing the first ball of the first innings but not the second.

It was a superstition abandoned yesterday and it brought him luck.

He was already into double figures when, from his ninth delivery, fate smiled on him.

The catch presented to Jonathan Bairstow was so routine his slip cordon was celebrating before he dropped it.

Victim already of two questionable decisions this season, Stoneman made the most of it.

He said: "You can feel as though you're owed a little bit of luck but you're never sure how it's going to pan out.

"I was fortunate that catch was dropped and going on to make 100 after having that chance was the main thing."

Jennings came out on the back of consecutive golden ducks.

Normally such a stoical, stodgy batsman - no bad thing for an opener in this Twenty20-infected era - he started off matching Stoneman's much quicker natural pace.

As the morning session neared its end Jennings began to get bogged down, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid improbably applying the breaks.

After the break Stoneman was at his fluid best.

When he hit another four into the offside - many were little more than firm pushes - Jennings excitedly came all the way down the pitch to celebrate with a partner who seemed comparatively uninterested.

He might have been playing it cool, but Stoneman is a clever lad who will have recognised the significance of Durham's first century opening stand since last May. …

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