Sep 19 2008 by Luke Edwards
SHIVNARINE Chanderpaul is the world’s best batsman and he finally showed why for the first time in county cricket yesterday, as a spectacular and unbeaten 130 maintained Durham’s interest in the County Championship title.
It was the West Indian star’s 46th First-Class hundred, but it was his first for Durham. Even one of the all-time greats can suffer from dramatic fluctuations in form from time to time. Prolific against the Indians and Australians in Test cricket earlier this year, the 34-year-old had only scored 50 runs in seven innings at the Riverside this season.
Having almost single-handedly held the West Indian Test side together with the bat over the last four years – an effort recognised last week when he was named ICC Cricketer of the Year – Chanderpaul has been something of a weak link for Durham since his arrival in July.
There had been signs against Somerset last week, where he scored 91, that Chanderpaul was starting to find his feet in English conditions.
But this was even better as he took the game away from Sussex. Form is temporary and class permanent and Chanderpaul’s century came from 134 balls as he shared a 182-run fifth-wicket partnership with his fellow West Indian, Gareth Breese.
Breese was an unexpected inclusion in the side, replacing opener Mark Stoneman, but head coach Geoff Cook’s decision looked an excellent one at the close last night.
Durham will be annoyed the end to the day came with six overs still left to play after the umpires forced them off for bad light with their score 325-4.
Although Chanderpaul was the more dominant stroke player, as you would expect, finding the gaps no matter where Sussex moved their fielders, Breese took his fine one-day form into his first Championship game of the season and was unbeaten on 63 when the players headed back to the dressing room.
Chanderpaul was cautious as he approached his first century in county cricket.
But he went on the attack as soon as he had passed it as Durham, conscious of the fact they only have two days left to try to secure a win, put their foot down.
They must decide this morning whether to bat on until they reach 350 and another bonus point, or if they need as much time as possible to bowl at Sussex.
With Stoneman left out, Ben Harmison was moved up to open with Michael Di Venuto and the pair got Durham off to a solid start before Di Venuto played around a straight delivery from Jason Lewry and went for 34.
Harmison averages just over 15 runs in the Championship, but he had scored double that before chopping a full delivery from Mohammad Sami on to his stumps.
That left Durham on 94-2 and when Will Smith and Dale Benkenstein both edged wide balls to wicket-keeper Matt Prior in quick succession, the home side looked as though they were teetering on the brink of a collapse at 143-4.
Given Smith and Benkenstein’s recent form, both will be annoyed at the manner in which they were out.
But Chanderpaul and Breese came to the rescue as Sussex began to resemble a team which already has one eye on the winter break.
Durham will certainly hope that is the case as they look to take 20 wickets in six sessions.
It will be a tough ask, but they have at least given themselves a fighting chance.