Durham 103 (Coad 4-23; Thompson 3-16) and 106 for 2 (Lees 58*) lead Yorkshire 199 (Kohler-Cadmore 41, Brook 41) by 10 runs
To walk around a near-deserted Riverside at the moment is to be reminded of a different summer. Signs and notices still advertise last year's World Cup and one realises with a jolt that this match began on the first anniversary of the start of the Ashes series. We have gone from Steve Smith to squirts of sanitiser in twelve months. Professional cricketers, of course, have little time for such reflections. Some moved counties in the winter and were hoping to make an impact in April; many others are out of contract this year and have nine weeks in which to prove they deserve a new deal. They are playing for more than a one-off trophy in a truncated season.
For the moment, though, harvesting a decent haul of points in the Bob Willis Trophy is all they can do, so Yorkshire's coaches will have been slightly disappointed just after lunch when Ben Coad's limp waft edged a catch to Ned Eckersley, thus ending his side's first innings on 199, one run shy of a batting bonus point. But any irritation at Coad's final shot will have been balanced by pleasure at the five boundaries he had clumped during a valuable last-wicket stand of 35 with Jack Shutt. Two of those fours were cheery thwacks down the ground off Ben Raine and they rather summed up Yorkshire's approach to batting during the first half of a day in which they established a 96-run first-innings lead.
However, after managing only 103 all out in their first attempt, Durham's batsmen offered far tougher resistance on Sunday afternoon and were 106 for 2 at the close. The home's obduracy would have done credit to Democratic Unionists. It was epitomised by the openers, Alex Lees, who was batting against his old county, and Sean Dickson, who was trying to impress his new one after his recent move from Kent. The pair had added 47 in 26 overs when Dickson was caught off the inside edge by Jonny Tattersall for 14, and though their approach was as staid as a maiden aunts' sherry party, it was at least safe.
More to the point, neither Steve Patterson nor any of his bowlers could build on their success, partly because this Riverside pitch has lost a little of its spice but mainly because Lees ground out an unbeaten 58 in 150 balls. Yet the opener's pleasure may have been moderated by his part in the run out which saw Cameron Steel dismissed for 11. That mix-up occurred when the batsmen attempted a third run only to see Ben Coad's throw from third man be collected by Tattersall, who threw the stumps down at the bowler's end with a galloping Steel short of his ground. Nevertheless a game which once threatened not to last beyond its second day may now stretch into a fourth.
Durham's resilience may have pleased their absent supporters watching the live stream on their laptops, but their run rate is so pedestrian - 106 runs in 51 overs - that they may have to bat most of the third day in order to set any sort of target on a pitch which has eased a little since the first morning when a heavy atmosphere made batting even more of a trial. Yorkshire's batsmen, by contrast, were never chary of playing their shots and that approach worked for them in the morning session. The visitors scored 80 runs in 28 overs, thus establishing a 61-run lead at a cost of four wickets, two of which fell when neither Jordan Thompson nor Tattersall played shots to straight balls. Harry Brook, too, rather gave it away when he pulled Matthew Potts straight to Jack Burnham at deep midwicket, the fielder having been carefully placed 20 yards in from the rope. By then, though, the 21-year-old Brook had made 41 and had hit seven boundaries, the majority of them intentional and precise.
From the opening exchanges there was a busyness about Yorkshire's batting which their opponents have so far lacked. Twenty of the 58.4 overs in Durham's innings had been maidens; the home bowlers managed just six in their first 24, some of them delivered in the first day's last knockings when Dawid Malan and Brook were playing for the close. The departure of Malan, superbly caught by Ned Eckersley off the inside edge for 30, gave Chris Rushworth the second of his three wickets but the Durham spearhead was otherwise roughly treated by Yorkshire's batsmen and it is probably some time since he has gone for four an over in a first-class innings.
But while home supporters were prohibited from watching experienced cricketers like the 34-year-old Rushworth, yesterday they were at least able to watch the county's academy cricketers take on Chester-le-Street, whose Ropery Lane home lies about 500 yards from the Riverside. That game was attended, on a much smaller ground, by over 100 spectators and catering facilities were available. Yet no one apart from players, officials and media is being allowed into the Riverside, whose capacity is currently around 15,000.
Such inconsistency is perhaps to be expected during an emergency almost without precedent in modern British history. But it would still need nothing more than a gentle relaxation to remove it and it is hard to see what the hazard might be in allowing a thousand or so folk watch cricket in the open air.