DURHAM must look to the positives after their County Championship clash with Middlesex ended in a draw.
Geoff Cook’s side pushed for victory in a game where the weather again took its toll – over the four days, 178 overs were lost to either rain or bad light.
It almost proved costly as they chased 130 in 20 overs.
Wickets fell cheaply in the Durham second innings as the visitors played with more abandon than normal to try to reach their goal.
With Durham reduced to 72-6, Middlesex could scent victory, but again the rain came in to play and a draw was conceded on 82-6.
It was a case of so near, yet so far for the visitors, but skipper Phil Mustard insisted his side had done everything in their power to try to claim their first win of the campaign.
“We didn’t get the result, but everything we did, we did right before the weather came in,” he said.
“That was the most confident we’ve probably been.”
The wicketkeeper/batsman was pleased with his team’s performance as a whole, but singled out strike bowler Graham Onions for special praise. A superb effort from Onions saw him twice remove England skipper Andrew Strauss for a combined score of just six runs.
The Durham seamer was the star of the show – finishing with figures of 10-73 from Middlesex’s two innings.
And while he was delighted with Onions’s display, Mustard believes there is more to come.
He said: “He’s just getting into the groove. He’s still got another gear, but I don’t think it’s far away.”
With Middlesex on 21-1 overnight, Durham began by striking in the first over for the third successive day.
Onions had Sam Robson caught at second slip by Michael Di Venuto, and there were two wickets for Ben Stokes and one each for Mitch Claydon and Callum Thorp in reducing the hosts to 75-6.
Skipper Chris Rogers looked the most likely to defy Durham, but he departed to the second ball after lunch for 36 when a fast, straight one from Onions pinned him lbw.
Two balls later Gareth Berg gave Di Venuto his fifth catch of the match, and at that point, Onions had 4-9 as Middlesex were reduced to 91-8 – a lead of just 41.
But Tim Murtagh proved a thorn in Durham’s side, hitting a swashbuckling 45 off 50 balls before falling to Mitchell Claydon.
Murtagh’s 82-run ninth wicket partnership with wicketkeeper John Simpson (47) was to prove pivotal as Middlesex were all out for 179.
That left Durham to chase 130 in 45 overs, which was reduced to 20 overs after another enforced break in play.
Durham began to take more risks, which saw Will Smith, Paul Collingwood, Dale Benkenstein and Ben Stokes and Ian Blackwell all perish for very low scores.
When Scott Borthwick was caught by Andrew Strauss off the bowling of Steven Finn, Durham were wobbling on 72-7.
However, the spinner got a reprieve when it was revealed that the delivery was a no ball, and he and Mustard held firm to claim the draw.
Durham though must have wondered what might have been had the Middlesex tail not wagged or the weather intervened.