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Durham fortunes take an upturn.

Byline: Mark Douglas

HERE'S one you haven't heard for a while - assured Durham batted with effortless authority to record a much-needed victory.

Reversing their fortunes in the longer form of the game, Durham and brilliant opener Mark Stoneman found an extra gear with the bat to see off a doughty effort from the Scottish Saltires, who had made their attack labour on a scorching day at the Emirates Durham ICG.

Now the hope must be that this yields more than just a crucial win in the Clydesdale Bank 40 for a Durham side that needs both points and belief to resurrect a season in danger of tipping into crisis.

Having negotiated this banana skin, Geoff Cook will hope Stoneman and Mustard turn their brilliant knocks into a springboard for the rest of the season.

Granted, the Saltires' erratic attack will not pose the most awkward questions of Durham's batsmen this season, and the conditions - the most brilliant blue sky and temperatures keeping Athens in the shade - put the ball firmly in the court of the batsmen.

Still, Scotland's total of 258-4 was enough to make you wonder how a team low on conviction would respond to relative adversity.

In the event, we felt foolish for worrying as Phil Mustard and the swashbuckling Stoneman put on a first-innings partnership of 207 that put Durham in the sort of commanding position they haven't enjoyed all season.

Stoneman's previous best in any form of the game this season was 35 but he played with verve as he took the game to the ordinary Scotland attack and ended with an unbeaten 136.

These were career-best figures in oneday cricket, and how Scotland's bowlers must have been sick of the sight of him by the end of an innings that included 18 fours and one monstrous six.

If there was any disappointment it was that Mustard - similarly in need of runs - was dismissed just short of his century.

But his entertaining 91 - caught at mid on after being tempted into one big hit too many by Matthew Parker - was a mighty contribution to a convincing Durham win.

Stoneman, however, was imperious and enjoyed being able to talk about a successful innings for once.

"It is nice to get that one-day monkey off my back - especially with the way things have been going this year," he said. "I have had a couple of starts this year and ironically that was probably my worst. But I managed to be there at the end which was a positive.

"I felt like I didn't really get my feet going at the start but I got one over the bowlers' head and started to settle in from there.

"From there we were always going at a fantastic rate. Philip (Mustard) was fantastic as well."

Indeed, it was an exhilarating feeling to see the Dynamos openers clubbing the ball with confidence again after the collapses of recent weeks.

Scotland tried everything to unsettle them but their misfortune was summed up when Preston Mommsen saw him concede 20 off his first over.

Put into bat under azure blue skies after Paul Collingwood won the toss, Scotland proceeded to construct an innings of genuine substance.

They lost Josh Davey in the sixth over as he offered a leading edge to Graham Onions - Stoneman greedily snaffled the catch at mid off - but Durham found further wickets hard to come by.

Jean Symes teased his way to a 50 while partner Calum MacLeod seemed to be living more of a charmed life.

He survived a decent-looking claim for LBW off the luckless Onions before Claydon went agonisingly close to a spectacular catch at deep cover from a Jamie Harrison delivery that fizzed with pace.

Eventually he perished on 48 when he edged Claydon, allowing Mustard to scurry along and make a smart catch.

The Dynamos were finding it tough but were rewarded for persistence when captain Collingwood took a muchneeded wicket, tempting Richie Berrington to biff one to deep square - where Gordon Muchall claimed the catch.

Symes was anchoring the Scotland innings though, and he raced to his century as the Saltires continued to make hay. Eventually Liam Plunkett removed him with the final ball of the innings - but 258-4 sent hearts fluttering.

How those fears were confounded as Stoneman and Mustard assembled a partnership to win any game.

It helped that the Saltires opening bowlers went a touch wild with their opening deliveries - setting the tone for the afternoon session.

Michael Parker is a rangy pace man but just didn't seem to be able to locate his radar during an excruciating first over.

Three successive wides allowed Mustard the chance to play himself into some sort of comfort zone and confidence flowed from there.

Now Durham will hope there is more to come when they meet the tougher challenge posed by Lancashire at Chesterle-Street this week, but this has set them up nicely for the 40-over competition.

"I think when the group was first drawn it was seen as the group of death with three semi-finalists from last year," Stoneman said.

"If you put a few good wins together and go on a run, it always helps. I don't think there's any team out there that we should be scared of."


TAKE THAT Jean Symes hits out on his way to 110 for Scotland; right, Durham''s Graham Onions
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 28, 2012
Previous Article:SPORT TODAY.

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