Keedy stars with ball to keeps Lancashire afloat
by John Ward

Ground:Old Trafford, Manchester
Scorecard:Lancashire v Durham
Player:ID Blackwell, G Keedy
Event:LV County Championship 2010

DateLine: 11th August 2010


A dramatic day of action on a pitch at Old Trafford where the ball spun and kept low, where the spinners reigned and specialist batsmen did stupid things, ended with Durham well ahead and Lancashire in danger of their first championship defeat of the season. 309 runs were scored during the day for 18 wickets. Ian Blackwell followed up his good bowling with a fine 65 that may turn out to be the decisive innings of this match, while Gary Keedy bowled a fine and almost a lone hand for Lancashire to return the best figures of his career. The bottom line is that, in their second innings, Lancashire are still 34 runs behind with two top batsmen gone.


Although the match seemed reasonably well balanced on a ‘result’ pitch when Lancashire finished the first day with 131 for four, Durham immediately swung the balance of the match. It took them only 75 minutes to polish off the Lancashire innings, for the addition of only 50 runs. The overnight batsmen soon fell. Gareth Cross, beaten by the first two balls of the day from Blackwell, was plumb lbw to the third for his overnight 17. Mark Chilton added only a single to his 68 before he too was removed by exactly the same method, back on his stumps.


While Luke Sutton was virtually strokeless, Glen Chapple tried to attack, swinging a ball from Blackwell to the midwicket boundary, but Harmison soon found the answer to him, pushing him back with a short ball and then pitching the next up to find him in no-man’s land, caught at second slip for 5. Three wickets had fallen in the first half an hour for six runs.


There was no real recovery, although Sutton and Saj Mahmood put on 30 together without ever looking secure. Sutton got off the mark from his 21st ball, and even that was fortunate, as a top-edged sweep just evaded a fielder. Mahmood hammered Blackwell for a straight six, followed by a four wide on mid-on, but like his captain was unable to treat pace in the same way, lbw to Harmison for 20 moving across his stumps. Simon Kerrigan (4) fell in the same way, the fourth lbw, although it did look rather high, and Lancashire may not have been happy with all these decisions. Finally Sutton, hitting against the spin of Blackwell, skied a catch to long-on to depart for 12, and the innings was over for 181.


Lancashire batted poorly; Harmison (three for 27) and Blackwell (five for 78) both bowled very well, and support in the field was better this time. Harmison did not work up to full pace, but was brisk, accurate and at times moved the ball quite sharply off the pitch.


Michael Di Venuto began aggressively for Durham, taking some early toll of the inconsistent Saj Mahmood, but the bowler soon had his revenge. Di Venuto tried to pull a ball that seemed to keep rather low, and was the fifth lbw victim of the morning for 13 off 14 balls. This did not improve Mahmood’s accuracy, though, as Gordon Muchall hit two fours and a single from the rest of the over. He was quickly removed in favour of Kerrigan, with Gary Keedy at the other end, and it was the latter who had Muchall caught at the wicket for 14 on the stroke of lunch. Durham, who had perhaps tried to be a little too aggressive, went in at the interval with 38 for two wickets.


Mark Stoneman, who opened with Di Venuto, had before lunch played a quiet game, the ballast Durham needed. Only five minutes after the interval, however, he threw his wicket away, trying to force a ball from Keedy across the line to leg – yet another lbw victim, for 7. The pitch, to be sure, was not easy, but the batsmen on both sides were showing some very poor shot selection.


Blackwell was next, and he soon showed that caution would not inhibit him, either, as he launched the fourth ball he received from Keedy over the leg boundary for six. He continued to attack, with Dale Benkenstein at the other end, but his discrimination was generally good and the fifty partnership went up in half an hour. The spinners, although turning the ball well, were not always on the spot, and Blackwell in particular took heavy toll of anything remotely loose. His driving through extra cover was imperious.


Blackwell brought about a change in the bowling, the seamers returning, and Tom Smith did have the big man in a little trouble once or twice. But he survived, and ran through to his fifty in 40 balls. At this point he lost Benkenstein, trapped lbw by a ball from Chapple that moved in and kept low, for a quiet but valuable 32, which had taken Durham to 124 for four at this stage. This brought in Ben Stokes, who would have run himself out without scoring as he was sent back when attempting a risky single, and a straight throw would have done for him.


After this Blackwell became strangely subdued, moving up to 65 off 67 balls before he attempted no shot against a ball from Keedy that turned in the footmarks and hit his off stump; 169 for five. Phil Mustard followed without addition, going on the sweep and top-edging to slip via his body; only six runs later Ben Stokes, who had played some good strokes in his 32, also perished to the sweep. Durham were still six runs in arrears and had now only three wickets left; tea was taken at this point.


Four byes took Durham into the lead in the second over after tea, in only the 45th over. Scott Borthwick and Liam Plunkett were the batsmen at the crease now, and they batted with good common sense that had eluded some of their supposed superiors with the bat. They played orthodox strokes, eschewed foolish sweeps and waited for the bad ball. They put on 51 together before Borthwick edged a sharp spinner from Keedy and fell to a juggling catch at slip. Mitch Claydon was caught at mid-on off Keedy for 2, and finally the same bowler bowled out Plunkett for 28, the ball again keeping quite low. This gave Keedy the best figures of his career, seven for 68 – he perhaps bowled better than Blackwell did, as he was more accurate - and Durham were bowled out for 237. Their lead of 56 on the first innings was quite significant on this pitch, although they will have to bat last on it.


Paul Horton began aggressively when Lancashire went in again, but he too, like so many other specialist batsmen in this match, fell to a poor stroke, strangled down the leg side off Claydon for 8. Tom Smith (2) quickly followed, edging Harmison low to second slip, and Lancashire were now in real trouble at 10 for two. Blackwell was on again early, but Chilton and Keedy by sound defence saw out the day without further disaster. Unless Lancashire can pull something special out of the bag, there may well be a Durham victory on the third day.


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