DURHAM skipper Phil Mustard felt there were enough positive signs in narrowly avoiding defeat at home to a half-strength Somerset side to suggest his side will soon climb off the bottom of division one.

“Things would have looked pretty bleak had we lost, so it’s a relief,” he said. “Four of the top six middled a few shots and got into the 30s, which will help their confidence.

“Everyone knows we have not been batting well, but it’s very difficult when the ball nips around as much as it has.

“I got a bit nervous when we lost a few wickets and it wasn’t the ideal way to get the job done, but we did it.

“It’s a step in the right direction.”

The only direction Durham can contemplate is up and after a week off they can look forward to playing on what is usually a run-laden track at Taunton.

Somerset will still be without Marcus Trescothick, Steve Kirby and Jos Buttler but might be able to call on leftarm seamer Gemaal Hussain by then, while Nick Compton will be back to strengthen the batting.

Despite having two days washed out, Durham would have lost on Saturday had the start not been delayed by 40 minutes and had Somerset not missed three slip catches.

Among those they put down was former team-mate Ian Blackwell on 25 and after totalling 70 runs in seven innings he remained unbeaten on 38.

The lead was 88 with 11.5 overs left when last man Ruel Brathwaite joined Blackwell.

Had Somerset removed him straightaway they might have had a chance of victory, but five balls later he survived a very sharp chance to the diving Alex Barrow at third slip.

Once Blackwell had taken four runs off the next over, and with two overs to be deducted for change of innings, a draw was certain and hands were shaken with Durham on 234 for nine.

There were 71 overs left in the match when they embarked on their second innings trailing by 142 after Craig Kieswetter, on 60 overnight, was left stranded on a very impressive 96 not out in the morning.

In pleasant conditions batting appeared easier than on the first day and Durham’s opening stand of 61 suggested there would be no alarms.

Will Smith fell for 22 when he reached for an away swinger from Peter Trego and edged to second slip, then Michael Di Venuto departed for 38 when he spooned a catch to cover.

Mark Stoneman was dropped in the slips on four before he and Paul Collingwood wiped out the deficit by taking the score to 144.

It seemed they could enjoy the rest of the game in relative comfort, but in the over before tea Collingwood was given out lbw by Trevor Jesty for 36. The ball from the 6ft 5in Craig Overton appeared to have very good chance of passing over the stumps.

Stoneman also fell lbw, this time to a swinging yorker, then Gordon Muchall, Mustard and Callum Thorp all edged to the slips and at 186 for seven Durham led by only 44.

A quick 20 from Graham Onions settled the nerves, but they briefly returned when he was bowled aiming to drive Vernon Philander and Mitch Claydon slapped a slow full toss from Trego to mid-wicket.

It was not a good game for Claydon, whose second ball of the morning was smashed high over long-on by Kieswetter.

After taking a wicket in his first over on the opening day, Claydon finished with one for 71 from 9.2.

If it is felt Steve Harmison could not improve on that something is sadly wrong.


Durham v Somerset
Overnight: Durham 125 (C Overton 4-38).
Somerset 220-8 (C A J Meschede62, C
Kieswetter 60 no; C D Thorp 4-53).

Somerset First Innings
C Kieswetter not out 96
M T Waller c Mustard b Onions 4
G H Dockrell run out 4
Extras (b2 lb9 w1 nb2 pens 0) 14
Total (57.2 overs) 267
Fall: 1-0 2-6 3-32 4-45 5-95 6-202 7-220
8-220 9-227
Total Bonus Pts: Durham 3 Somerset 5
Onions 22-4-73-3. Thorp 19-3-71-4. Claydon
9.2-0-71-1. Brathwaite 5-0-31-1. Blackwell

Durham Second Innings
W R Smith c Overton b Trego 22
M J Di Venuto c Waller b Meschede 38
M D Stoneman lbw b Overton 35
P D Collingwood lbw b Overton 36
G J Muchall c Trego b Meschede 14
I D Blackwell not out 38
P Mustard c Trego b Meschede 2
C D Thorp c Barrow b Trego 3
G Onions b Philander 20
M E Claydon c Waller b Trego 2
R M Brathwaite not out 0
Extras (b1 lb9 w2 nb12 pens 0) 24
Total 9 wkts (61 overs) 234
Fall: 1-61 2-85 3-144 4-163 5-165 6-175
7-186 8-213 9-230
Total Bonus Pts: Durham 3 Somerset 5
Philander 18-1-66-1. Overton 12-3-49-2.
Trego 15-2-52-3. Meschede 13-2-38-3. Gregory
Durham (6pts) drew with Somerset (8pts)