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Durham on the brink of safety
DURHAM can make virtually certain of County Championship division one survival this week by recording their fourth successive win at home to bottom club Worcestershire.
The visitors will have left-handed opener Phil Hughes back from Australia A duty against England Lions last week, when both he and Durham's Ben Stokes received late call-ups.
Hughes was the only batsman to trouble Durham on their visit to Worcester, scoring 87 out of a total of 205. Durham were 67 without loss in their second innings, leading by 105, but rain prevented any play on the final day.
The return of Stokes puts Callum Thorp's place in jeopardy as Durham can hardly leave out Mark Wood following his exceptional all-round efforts in the win at Trent Bridge.
If he goes in at No 9 it gives a lot of depth to the batting, which is welcome in a season in which they have the lowest total of batting points with 12 from 13 games.
Worcestershire have 13 after picking up two from their total of 251 for seven declared in the rain-ruined draw at home to second bottom Lancashire last week.
That featured an innings of 82 by Stourbridge-born Neil Pinner, one of three youngsters drafted into the side recently along with seamer Chris Russell and all-rounder Joe Leach.
Durham were surprised that Stokes was called up by England Lions as a batsman when it is his bowling which has impressed recently.
They will be happy to have him supporting Graham Onions , Chris Rushworth and Wood, leaving Thorp vulnerable after going wicketless at Trent Bridge and picking up only two in the home win against Surrey.
On a horses for courses basis, Durham might still want him next week against Lancashire at Liverpool, where he took six for 20 last season.
Worcestershire are three points behind Lancashire with a game in hand and the Red Rose men appear to be pinning all their hopes on Liverpool, having also switched their final game against Surrey to the Aigburth ground.
Durham (from): P D Collingwood (capt), M D Stoneman, W R Smith, K K Jennings, B A Stokes, D M Benkenstein, P Mustard, S G Borthwick, M A Wood, G Onions, C Rushworth, C D Thorp.