Double header at the Riverside
Yorkshire and Leicestershire were the opponents for a Vitality Blast double header
Two visits to the Riverside Ground in three days gave me the chance to catch a double header of Vitality Blast action.
It also, unfortunately, showed me why Durham will ultimately fail to reach the knockout stages of this year’s competition.
Two heavy defeats for Durham epitomised their issues in the T20 tournament, and should give the county’s hierarchy plenty of food for thought ahead of next season.
First up on Friday, Yorkshire Vikings.
A muggy night at Chester-le-Street saw a bumper crowd of around 8,000 witnessed Yorkshire bat first, the Vikings quickly made the most of some average bowling from the home side.
Former England international Adam Lyth was enjoying his evening and, after a slow start, his opening partner Finn Allen joined in the fun.
Some big hitting saw the pair reach 100 with little more than eight overs on the board. Even after Allen departed, Lyth’s new partner Tom Kohler-Cadmore quickly got into the action.
Scott Borthwick eventually removed Lyth for 81, but Yorkshire were well on their way to passing 200.
This was the score they reached by the end of their 20 overs, and the hosts required 202 for victory.
A thick cloud had covered the ground for much of the first innings, but the threat of rain had remained just that.
However, a brief shower during the interval had the ground staff at the Riverside looking slightly concerned for a few moments, enough for staff to rally and place the covers in place.
Fortunately this may have been the shortest rain delay in the history of cricket.
The rain eased, the covers were off, my coffee was replenished, and Durham began their reply.
A timid start had Durham going at just over seven runs an over with nearly three overs on the board.
Graham Clark departed for seven, but Durham powered on to 50 before their next wicket would fall.
Michael Jones fired 34 off 24 including two fours and two sixes before he was bowled, but wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson at least rallied to try and get his side back in the fixture.
His batting partners, however, departed at regular intervals. Ned Eckersley and Paul Coughlin departed in the same over.
When Jack Shutt dismissed Robinson, Durham were six wickets down and needed almost 100 still to win from just six overs.
In the last six overs, Durham managed just 27 more runs, giving the Vikings a hugely comfortable win.
Durham were outclassed in every category, but a fixture against a side just above them in the north group in two days raised hopes of a much needed win.
Sunday, Father’s Day, and I was back at the Riverside with my old man.
In front of the Sky Sports cameras, visitors Leicestershire Foxes won the toss and batted first.
Opting for a seat in the middle section of the Riverside’s three-tier stand, we sat down just in time to see an early breakdown in communication lead to a run out.
This set the tone for the innings, and some top bowling and lacklustre batting had the Foxes heading towards an underwhelming total.
Australian international bowler AJ Tye caused issues for the middle order, and his efforts were rewarded with final figures of 5–38.
A late flurry pushed the visitors past 150 where they eventually finished up on 157–9.
A target of under 160, in the modern T20 game, shouldn’t be daunting. However for a Durham side with just three wins in nine Blast games heading into this one, it was a different story.
Spin was the name of the game and 17-year-old Rehan Ahmed was the pick of the bowlers. He, Callum Parkinson and then Wiaan Mulder tore through some woeful Durham batting.
Coughlin’s 22 from 17 offered some hope, but the collapse was completed with almost three and a half overs to spare.
The dismal display has put to an end, barring a huge turn in fortunes and performances, Durham’s chances of reaching the Vitality Blast quarter finals.
Regardless of the two performances, these two fixtures were enjoyable and gave me the chance to see some of the best players in the English county game.
My first taste of Test match cricket at Headingley later this week should be just as enjoyable… more of that to come later.