Durham 219 for 6 (Lees 84, Coughlin 42*) v Derbyshire
Alex Lees again left his mark on Derbyshire as Durham fought back to frustrate the North Group leaders on the first day of the Bob Willis Trophy match at the Emirates Riverside.
Lees batted for more than four hours to top score with 84, his fourth 50 against Derbyshire in two seasons, after Durham had slumped to 32 for 3.
Luis Reece, who finished with 2 for 44, removed him to leave Durham on 155 for 6 but Paul Coughlin and Ned Eckersley shared an unbroken stand of 64 to take their side to 219 for 6 when bad light forced an early close.
Lees has proved a constant thorn in Derbyshire’s side down the years. His career-best unbeaten 275 was made for Yorkshire at Chesterfield and last season he carried his bat for 107 at Chester-le-Street.
Although he failed to get to three figures on this occasion, he played with impressive discipline, using all his powers of concentration and patience to bat through the first session which belonged to the bowlers.
The breezy conditions encouraged swing and Billy Godleman’s decision to put Durham in was quickly justified as two wickets fell in the first six overs of a bright morning.
Sean Dickson has found it tough this season and his poor run continued when he was struck in front by Sam Connors who found just enough movement to get through his defences.
The opener has scored only 34 runs in six innings and Michael Jones also went cheaply on his first appearance of the campaign when Reece swung one back in to trap him lbw.
Lees had seen an edge drop just short of third slip but Derbyshire did not have to wait long for another success which came when David Bedingham trapped the ball onto his front pad and Ben Aitchison cut short his lbw appeal to plunge forward and take a smart return catch.
Harte helped Lees negotiate 13 overs up to lunch and although Lees almost chopped Ed Barnes into his stumps on 40, the pair grew in confidence to rebuild the innings.
Lees cut Connors for his seventh four to reach 50 before dispatching the next ball to the cover boundary but he was reprieved on 69 when a loose drive at Aitchison was spilled by Anuj Dal diving forward in the covers.
Godleman brought on Matt Critchley to try and break the stand and the leg-spinner delivered in his third over although Harte will be disappointed at the way he tamely chipped the ball to mid on.
But it had still been a good afternoon for Durham who went in at tea on 154 for 4 only for Derbyshire to regain the initiative immediately after the interval.
Again Durham gave them a helping hand as Stuart Poynter tried to sweep the fifth ball from Critchley off his stumps, missed, and was lbw for seven.
The wicket Derbyshire wanted came in the next over when Lees, who had looked uncertain just before tea, pushed forward at Reece who moved the ball just enough to get past the bat.
But any hopes Derbyshire had of wrapping up the innings quickly were frustrated as Coughlin and Eckersley stood firm for 24 overs until the weather closed in at just after 6pm.
Although the match is being played at Chester-le-Street, it is classed as a home game for Derbyshire who cannot play at Derby because the Incora County Ground is being used by the ECB as a bio secure venue.