The Indianpost

Durham’s Dale Benkenstein helps to bury Lancashire

Lancashire identified two reasons for a second defeat by Durham that represents a major, though not fatal, blow to their hopes of ending the wait for an outright Championship title that stretches back to 1934.

The first was their batting in the second innings, when they should have set Durham a far more exacting target than 181. The second was Dale Benkenstein.

They might have added a thirdfactor as two dropped catches prevented them from exerting even more pressure on the Durham batsmen. But even if Paul Horton had caught Paul Collingwood at slip to reduce the visitors to 49 for four, or Kyle Hogg had taken Ian Blackwell’s top-edged hook shortly after lunch to make it 123 for six, Lancashire would still have had to find some way of shifting Benkenstein – something that proved beyond them as he scored almost half his team’s runs in a low-scoring match.

The 37-year-old South African is now statistically Durham’s best signing, having overtaken the county record of 7,854 first-class runs previously held by Jon Lewis when he cut Gary Keedy for the winning boundary that lifted his county 23 points clear at the top of the Division One table. But for regular Durham watchers, he has held that accolade for some time, having captained them to their first title in 2008, and remained a hugely influential figure since returning to the ranks under first Will Smith and now Phil Mustard – who must fancy his chances of becoming the third man to lift the trophy for Durham in four years.

“Sometimes you just have to hold up your hands and say well played,” said Mark Chilton, who lost his 100% record as Lancashire’s acting captain this season in his fourth Championship match standing in for Glen Chapple, as they also suffered their first defeat in four fixtures at their temporary Merseyside base. “Dale’s always been a fine player but that’s the best I’ve seen him play. His 83 in the first innings was exceptional, and today in a pressure situation he saw them home.”

Durham had extended their overnight 27 for three to 82 for four when Benkenstein joined Smith, Collingwood having gone for 21, when he was dropped, to a handy 45 until he drove at Luke Procter’s second ball and was brilliantly caught by Steven Croft in the gully. Smith fell lbw to Gary Keedy’s second ball shortly before lunch with 80 still needed.

Then came Lancashire’s two biggest misses, as Blackwell survived a difficult run-out chance in single figures before Hogg dropped an absolute sitter off the impressive, but unlucky, Sajid Mahmood. Their heads dropped after that and after passing 50 for the 10th time in 15 Championship innings this season, Benkenstein became the second batsman after Marcus Trescothick to reach 1,000 in the competition.He is now averaging more than 80.

“It’s been a fascinating game really,” he said. “To have won by five wickets makes it look easy, but anyone who’s been here knows it was on a knife edge. It’s a massive win for us.”

Both counties now return to the Friends Life t20 until mid-July, when Durham hope Ben Stokes will be fit for their next Championship fixture at Somerset, and Lancashire should have Chapple back to lead their attack as they aim to complete a Roses double at Headingley. “Chappy will make a big difference,” said their coach Peter Moores – both

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