IF you watched them bat for a little over a session yesterday, you might be forgiven for thinking if Durham tried to shoot themselves in the foot, they would probably miss right now.
They managed it against Lancashire. Loose batting and sub-standard change-bowling have been major factors behind a winless start which has left them bottom of the First Division.
But in arguably their most important game of the season so far, the symptoms of a team in disarray started to spread. Their luck is worsening, but so is their carelessness.
The recklessness of another dire batting display seeped into the field. Two slip catches were dropped, four run-out chances of varying difficulty missed, and a wicket thrown away because Jamie Harrison could not keep his feet behind a white line. Twenty-four of the 39 runs Lancashire lead have come from extras.
Despite some spirited bowling, Durham might already be out of this were it not for the return of the Chester-le-Street rain and the fact relegation-threatened champions Lancashire were almost as inept with the bat.
Durham can cite their fair share of misfortune this season, and there was more yesterday morning. Ian Blackwell’s back spasms ruled him out. Michael Di Venuto is missing with Achilles trouble. Then Phil Mustard lost the toss.
Durham could hardly complain about Lancashire getting first use of overcast conditions. You can say what you like about Mustard’s captaincy, but he is freakishly good at the toss of the coin.
Well though Lancashire used their advantage, their four seamers moving the ball impressively, most wickets were down to gross negligence by the batsmen. Not since 2008 have Durham been bowled out for less than the 102 they made in less than 37 overs. For a batting line-up with quality, it is not good enough.
If it were a one-off, it could be shrugged off, but this is the pattern of Durham’s season. Even at Taunton last week, where they passed 350 for the first time in 2012, it was distinctly below par. No matter how well they bat in 40-over cricket, the ripple effect is not being felt here.
It was the manner of the wickets that was so alarming. Fresh from what ought to have been confidence-boosting centuries last week, Mark Stoneman patted the ball gently off his hips to square leg, while Will Smith was bowled around his legs by a fast-medium bowler.