Durham’s first trip to Bristol in the County Championship since 2003 proved to be an incredibly frustrating affair. It was a slow pitch that did not offer much for the bowlers throughout the four days but Durham could not show their superiority with the ball. Like the Notts game the result was defined by fine margins. A 45 run 10th wicket partnership between David Payne and Chris Liddle took any hopes of a positive result away but Durham should really have ended Gloucestershire’s hopes on the third day after they took a 116 run lead.
On Friday, throughout all the County Championship fixtures, away teams rejecting the toss was commonplace due to overcast weather. Durham were no exception and after taking Cameron Bancroft’s wicket cheaply, Gloucestershire’s Australian overseas player, it looked as if the four man pace attack of Rushworth, Onions, Wood and Carse would prove too good. However the men in form Chris Dent and Will Tavare put on a frustrating partnership and the lack of penetration with the ball in these key moments would define Durham’s match. In the end in was Paul Collingwood, bringing himself on before lunch who made a double breakthrough. After lunch it was then Jennings who proved most effective with the ball, taking the wickets of Phil Mustard and Craig Miles in consecutive deliveries. Mark Wood toiled throughout the game and would end up taking just one wicket in both innings. He did show good pace and appears to be on the way back to full fitness but did not show his international class in the same way as James Pattinson did last week for Nottinghamshire. With Wood today called up in England’s Champions Trophy squad it seems the county will not see the best of him this season.
The one positive for Durham was with the bat. Stephen Cook and Michael Richardson who both had two failures against Notts scored 50s in the first innings as three batting points were acquired. Jennings and Collingwood also backed up the promising form they showed in the opening game but both fell just before making their hundreds. Cameron Steel, making his debut, also looked good for his 31. It is difficult to know what sort of form individuals will be in after the block of one day cup games but hopefully Cook and Jennings will be able to produce some more big partnerships before they inevitable join up with their national sides.
Gloucestershire’s second innings was the toughest part of the game for Durham. This is where they should have made their superiority show but another Dent-Tavare partnership appeared to have secured a draw. What made the eventual result tough to take was a brilliant spell from Rushworth and Onions took four wickets for three runs after as Gloucestershire eventually fell from 253-5 to 275-9, a lead of just 159 with plenty of overs remaining. Then, in a moment which decided the game, the umpires took an early tea after the light got too bad. After tea the 10th wicket partnership dug in, took up too many overs and stretched the lead above 200. When Onions finally bowled Liddle Durham would have had to have scored at over 7 an over. While not impossible the early losses of Cook, Clark and Collingwood made it impossible.
Durham now go into the one day cup likely feeling like the season is over. 93 points off second (with a game in hand) makes for depressing reading. Durham needed to not only win this match but dominate in order to feel like promotion was possible, they failed, and so it looks bleak. In real terms Durham now have 12 championship matches to pick up 8 wins. They will go into every game as favourites but it seems like an impossible task. One hope now it that this season could see the emergence of batting talent like Steel and Clark as well as Brydon Carse, but there is not a great deal more to play for.