Stoneman eyes final-day salvation as century raises Durham’s hopes of great escape against Yorkshire

Mark Stoneman hits out on his way to a century yuesterday. Picture by Tim Richardson
Mark Stoneman hits out on his way to a century yuesterday. Picture by Tim Richardson

A mammoth task lies ahead of Durham today – and history does not bode well; the last time they conceded more than 400 in an innings and did not lose was almost a year ago.

By the same token, that match was also against Yorkshire.

The two sides have fought intense duels in recent seasons and the brilliance of Mark Stoneman leaves his side with an outside chance of rescuing a draw from this County Championship match.

Stoneman, known as Rocky, scored a fourth hundred in his last nine first-class matches against the White Rose, ending on 116 not out as Durham remain 106 runs shy of making the visitors bat again.

An exemplary innings with offensive and defensive shots mixed diligently, the 28-year-old grafted and survived eight balls on 99 to reach a second Championship ton of the summer.

“It’s been hard work but enjoyable work to come off still in this game,” Stoneman said.

“For everybody coming in, it was a case of soaking up as many balls as possible and keep tiring them out, getting them into deeper and deeper spells.

“I wish I’d been getting runs in the first innings and we’d put runs on the board, but I’m still happy to take them in the situation.”

A draw from here, having been 349 runs behind with five sessions to play, would be a remarkable feat and rank highest among comebacks in a season plentiful of such performances. Some forecasted thunderstorms might aid their cause.

Pitches at the Emirates ICG tend to flatten out over the final few days, especially once the ball loses its shine – one feels the new ball today will be a critical factor.

“If there are going to be any inconsistencies in the surface it will be when the ball’s at its hardest. That will be a key the phase in the morning, but there hasn’t really been any swing in the game,” added Stoneman.

The home side commenced their second innings shortly after 12.30pm as Ryan Pringle, more watchful than the previous evening, ran out of partners on a first-class best of 69 not out. Scott Borthwick earlier made 54 in an 88-run stand.

Durham, therefore, must have felt a slither of temptation to order a Pringle U-turn on his route back to the changing rooms after Andrew Gale invited them to bat again.

But, satisfied by their morning’s work, Yorkshire stepped off the gas in the 25-minute mini-session before lunch. Stuart Patterson conceded as many runs, 18, in his three overs as he had in 18 first-innings overs.

Maybe Gale’s troops expected Durham to wilt in the stifling heat, but their second innings often improves on what came before and it was no different yesterday.

Stoneman and Keaton Jennings played sensibly in the early afternoon, notching their first hundred partnership of the season as batting looked simpler by the over.

It was therefore frustrating for the South African when he departed for 41, pushing Adil Rashid to silly cover; his wait for a game-changing knock continues.

While Stoneman reigned in his natural instincts, Borthwick and Paul Collingwood departed playing expansive drives either side of tea – certainly not what the situation required.

And when it looked as though Michael Richardson would accompany him to the close, their 45-run partnership was broken as Jack Brooks tempted him to edge behind to Jonny Bairstow, who completed his fifth catch of the day.

Stoneman is wary of England spinner Rashid, saying: “Rashid bowled very well. He puts a lot of balls in the same place but he puts varying amounts of spin on them.”

Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale remains confident his team can wrap up victory on the final day.

He said: “The heavy roller probably flattened the pitch a bit, but we bowled well all day.

“They will have to bat a full session to draw level. We took their last five first innings wickets (yesterday morning) and I see no reason why we can’t do it again.”