IT REMAINS unclear how important runs are against limited opposition, but both Keaton Jennings and Scott Borthwick secured morale-boosting centuries with little alarm on the first day against Durham MCCU.
More challenging tests certainly lie ahead in the coming months, but both batsmen played with consummate control as Durham declared on 448/4 against the students.
Jennings’ unbeaten score of 177* was his highest in first class cricket and will act as a positive omen heading into the season as he bids to put last year’s demons behind him, which ended with four ducks in five Championship innings.
“It was good to start the season a bit better than I ended it last year.
“Before the start of the game I had a bit of a twitch on and nerves in the stomach,” said the batsman after his career-best knock.
“At the time you want to hang up your boots and crawl into a hole, but you come through it and hope it doesn’t happen again.
“You always felt like you were going to get a scoring opportunity and you just had to hang in for a long enough period of time.”
This match is a regular in Durham’s pre-season calendar and typically ends up as one-way traffic; no professor in rocket science is required to tell you 11 professional cricketers should beat a team of students.
The MCCU’s paltry total of 18 all-out almost three years ago to the day made them the butt of many jokes, but they also have a knack of producing good cricketers, namely Andrew Strauss and Nasser Hussain.
This year’s crop, coached by ex-Durham star Gareth Breese in the absence of Graeme Fowler, elected to field after winning the toss despite glorious overhead conditions.
Ben Williams’ first delivery, a wide outside off-stump, set the tone for a one-sided day though there was the early scalp of Mark Stoneman.
The opener survived an agonisingly close LBW appeal before mistiming a pull shot straight to the square-leg fielder.
Jennings looked imperious from the off, while Borthwick was in ruthless touch.
Once the latter cruised past a half-century, the university outfit quickly ran out of ideas as the number three latched onto any loose deliveries to reach a post-lunch hundred in 133 balls.
It took an athletic catch by Charlie McDonnell to remove him on 106 and Michael Richardson then fell LBW to give Dimitri Ratnayake on six.
Though visiting skipper Cameron Steel rotated his bowlers throughout the afternoon, their weariness started to show as Jennings reached his ton and Calum Macleod displayed a fine range of sweeps on either side of the wicket.
He reached his half-century, but departed soon after tea, launching Ratnayake to Harry McInley at long-on.
As it transpired, Paul Collingwood’s arrival at the crease merely signalled the start of an onslaught.
A partnership of 109 in 12.2 overs saw the students carted to all areas of the ground and when the skipper reached his 50 in quick time, the innings was called to a halt.
The visitors were left with 45 minutes to negotiate and got through with little alarm, reaching 39/0 at the close of play.
“We always want to win, no matter what the situation,” Jennings said, with two days remaining.
“Today we played aggressively and we want to try and win the game from any position.”