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Durham have work to do to force victory
THE joy of a full day's cricket in the Arundel arboretum was tempered by a frustrating lack of progress for Durham.
As at Worcester last week, one batting point was of little use as they need victories to climb out of trouble and they will need two good days to force a win against Sussex.
The hosts reached 100 for three in reply to Durham's 231 with runs coming at fewer than three an over on the sort of pitch which would be typical of outgrounds in April.
It was in April last year that Durham were unable to shift Luke Wells when he made his maiden century at Riverside. A more unattractive hundred would be difficult to imagine, but it won the match and he was again a thorn in the flesh yesterday.
He looked a better player than 15 months ago as he made 41 out of Sussex's first 59 runs before Callum Thorp nipped one through his previously tight defence to bowl him.
That made it 59 for three, but Murray Goodwin and Mike Yardy survived the last hour on a sunny evening which showed the ground at its glorious best.
The conditions suggested Chris Rushworth and Thorp should have fancied their chances with the new ball. But while Durham had to recover from one for two, they took only one early wicket when Rushworth had Chris Nash lbw with the score on four.
A further 18 overs elapsed before Joe Gatting fell to Thorp in similar fashion, and when the same bowler also removed Wells the match was evenly-poised. But while Rushworth had a good shout against Goodwin turned down neither Mitch Claydon nor Ben Stokes were able to make much impression and Scott Borthwick was brought on for only two overs at the end.
Durham's total was as good as they could have hoped for after the poor start, with Dale Benkenstein and Borthwick both making their highest scores of the season, batting in contrasting styles.
After going in at 34 for three, Benkenstein realised that patience was the watchword and grafted for more than three hours to make 43.
Once the ex-captain had departed, Borthwick was left with the tail and played some high-class strokes on his way to a 67-ball half-century.
There were a couple of thick edges among his eight fours, but also an imperious drive through extra cover and a perfectly-timed sweep off Monty Panesar.
Like Mark Stoneman on the first day, he got out for exactly 50 when trying to force the pace against a spin bowler.
This time it was the part-time off-spin of Nash, who was on to use up a couple of overs before the new ball was taken.
Knowing that was the case, Durham tried to cash in and surrendered their last two wickets to Nash in the 80th over.
Borthwick tried to force him away square on the off side and obviously got some bat on the ball, but umpire Nigel Llong decided it had hit his pad first and gave him out lbw. The batsman did not appear to agree.
On a sunny morning the experienced pair of Benkenstein and Paul Collingwood had to concentrate on survival against the unrelenting accuracy of Steve Magoffin.
But only five runs had been added, all to Collingwood, when the captain pushed forward and edged the Australian to wicketkeeper Ben Brown to depart for nine.
Phil Mustard knuckled down to contribute 27 to a stand of 60 before, like Stoneman the previous day, he fell to Panesar just before lunch with dark clouds gathering.
Some umpires would have been off for bad light but Llong and Neil Mallender carried on and Mustard was hugely frustrated to be caught off bat and pad at short leg.
Rain seemed certain at lunch, but it held off and Benkenstein resumed on 42, having added only 31 runs in the morning.
He had at least gone past his previous best this season of 40, made at home to Warwickshire, and there were signs around 90 minutes into the session that he was running into form.
He pulled a couple of long hops fiercely in front of mid-wicket for four, but in going for a similar shot 15 minutes after lunch he skied a catch to mid-on off Magoffin.
The Australian, who bowled a long spell in the morning, was rested before Thorp got off the mark, making way for Luke Wright.
Thorp immediately hit the England one-day all-rounder through the covers for four then spooned the next ball into the hands of cover.
That brought in Claydon to join Borthwick on 175 for eight in a left-handed alliance which put on 55 in ten overs.
Claydon drove the first ball he faced from Wright past mid-off for four and included a rustic blow down the ground in his 15 before both fell in the space of four balls.
It was a tame end to the innings and, coupled with the disappointing final hour, it left Durham on the back foot.