Blazing Bedingham ton leaves Worcestershire facing uphill struggle

Durham 244 and 319 for 5 (Bedingham 138, Borthwick 75) lead Worcestershire 184 (Libby 61, Potts 3-40) by 379 runs

Centurion David Bedingham and Scott Borthwick propelled Durham into a position of considerable strength to push for a first victory of the season in the battle of the two promoted teams in the Vitality County Championship at Chester Road.

Their bowlers went to work in the morning session and collected the final six Worcestershire wickets to establish a first-innings lead of 60 on a wicket still offering some assistance to the seamers but with enough pace to encourage stroke-play.

Then Bedingham, in particular, and Durham captain Borthwick went to town during a third-wicket partnership of 195 in just 34 overs.

Bedingham continued the form he had shown after making his Test breakthrough for South Africa in the winter with 56 on his debut against India and scores of 39, 110, 32 and 87 versus New Zealand. His second fifty required just 24 balls as he races to three figures off 79 deliveries with five sixes and 11 fours.

By the close Durham had extended their overall advantage to 379.

For the Durham attack, it was a welcome return to conditions offering some assistance after the graveyard at Edgbaston where Warwickshire amassed 698 for 3 against the Kookaburra ball and a short boundary.

Ben Raine and Matthew Potts had combined figures of 0 for 206 on that occasion but showed their quality here. Jake Libby was again the main contributor to Worcestershire’s modest total with a composed 61. He has amassed 400 runs at an average of 100 in the last four Championship matches spanning the end of last season and the start of 2024.

But the quick scoring by Bedingham and Borthwick in the final session means Worcestershire are facing a daunting target on Sunday to avoid a first setback of the season.

Worcestershire resumed on 78 for 4 and much responsibility rested on the shoulders of Libby and Jason Holder if they were to get within touching distance of Durham’s total.

Holder did the bulk of the early scoring, cover driving Raine and Potts for boundaries, and then pulling the former for a big six over midwicket. But Raine had his revenge and struck in successive overs to put the visitors in the ascendancy.

Holder was bowled after pushing forward and then Matthew Waite had not troubled the scorers when he nibbled at a delivery and was caught behind.

Libby completed an accomplished half century off 101 balls with seven fours, and new batter Nathan Smith survived a chance at first slip off Paul Coughlin when on 11.

Libby’s determined knocked ended on 61 after a rare misjudgment when he shouldered arms and was bowled by Coughlin. Josh Baker then tried to duck out of the way of a Bas de Leede bouncer but the ball rebounded off his helmet onto his stumps.

Joe Leach departed to a superb one-handed catch by Bedingham away to his right at midwicket off Potts, who wrapped up the innings when Adam Finch was lbw aiming to leg.

Smith was left unbeaten on 33 and then made the first breakthrough with the ball when Durham began batting for a second time after lunch. Alex Lees played back and only succeeded in steering Smith to Holder at second slip.

Leach swapped to the Railway End after an initial four-over burst and disposed of Colin Ackermann, who nicked through to Gareth Roderick. But Durham captain Borthwick and Bedingham settled in and experienced few alarms in building towards a substantial lead.

Bedingham was the more fluent, scoring at around a run a ball for long periods, but it was Borthwick who was first to his half-century off 89 balls with five boundaries.

Two straight sixes in quick succession by Bedingham off Leach helped him to complete a 55-ball fifty and he accelerated to three figures with spinner Baker conceding successive maximums.

It needed a run-out to end the partnership when Borthwick failed to beat Smith’s throw to the non-striker’s end from deep midwicket attempting a second run.

Paul Coughlin feathered Finch through to Roderick attempting a square cut and Bedingham’s superb knock eventually ended on 138 when he sliced Smith on the off side and Adam Hose took an excellent catch on the cover boundary.