Higgins' hundred follows Hammond's example
Following Miles Hammond's effort against Sussex in the previous Championship fixture, Higgins -normally known for his powerful hitting in white ball cricket - showed he can bat responsibly and without the pyrotechnics, at one stage late in the day scoring only 11 runs in a period of 13 overs. The top edge off Matt Salisbury that completed his hundred was his twelfth boundary, and brought up three figures off 141 balls.
His dismissal for 105 to the day's final delivery, bowled by Ben Stokes, left matters more evenly balanced than before the second new ball. It brought Durham three wickets in the final hour after Gareth Roderick (67) and James Bracey (38) supported Higgins for 56 overs, whilst Miles Hammond's half century set the innings off on the right foot.
Gloucestershire will resume on the second day on 315-7.
The prospect of seeing England stars Ben Stokes and Mark Wood in action drew another excellent crowd to the College Ground, and Durham skipper Tom Latham clearly wanted to bat after offering up the chance to field first. It was, however, Chris Dent who won the toss and decided to bat, with Benny Howell coming into the side in place of Graeme van Buuren.
Stokes and Wood were kept back as the tenacious Chris Rushworth and recent acquisition Matt Salisbury shared the new ball against Chris Dent and Miles Hammond, who added 40 together with Hammond again showing that his timing of the cover drive can be a pleasure to watch.
Stokes' introduction however checked Gloucestershire progress in more ways than one. He trapped Dent lbw for 19, and then struck James Bracey high on his right arm, a blow which forced the left hander to leave the field and pay a visit to the adjacent A&E department at Cheltenham General. Steel's athletic catch to remove Benny Howell brought in Gareth Roderick, and before lunch he was hit on the helmet by Wood, who along with Stokes bowled at a lively pace.
Gloucestershire took lunch at 80-2, and there was further stoppages soon afterwards as Roderick took a second glancing blow on the helmet, this time from Stokes, and Hammond ducked into a ball from Rushworth. Neither delivery indicated any demons in the pitch, and it was a straight drive from Roderick off Stokes which brought up the fifty partnership before Hammond worked Rushworth to square leg for a half century made from 97 balls. It was to Rushworth's credit that his response was to produce a ball which knocked out Hammond's off stump.
The remainder of the day centred on Ryan Higgins, who started the season with a highest first class score of 45. He'd bettered it twice with half centuries against Glamorgan and Northants, and here faced an attack where Durham used left arm spinner George Harding to contain and allow the seamers - minus Mark Wood - to bowl from the other end. Wood didn't bowl at all after lunch because of a niggle in his left ankle.
The stand between Higgins and Roderick was methodially compiled, although both men sprinkled in some boundaries as Roderick drove Salisbury down the ground and Higgins cut him behind point. Rushworth, depsite his greater experience, wasn't immune from being despatched to the boards either as both batsmen pulled him throught the leg side and even Stokes, now with an older ball, looked less threatening. Roderick's fifty was his third of the Festival, and a sharp single off Will Smith brought up Gloucestershire's 200 as well as Higgins' half century.
Between them they had struck 14 fours and at tea both might have had thoughts of a hundred, only for Roderick's to be quashed immediately in Rushworth's first over as he was lbw for 67. Bracey, with additional strapping on his right arm, returned and added 64 with Higgins in relative comfort until Durham took the second new ball and enjoyed the better of the last hour.
The willing Rushworth caught Bracey (38) on his crease to get a second lbw decision and then bowled Noema-Barnett off an inside edge. It was therefore Craig Miles who embraced Higgins as he reached his hundred with successive boundaries off Salisbury, his century taking 141 balls and containing 12 fours. The all rounder's departure for 105 - caught at backward point off Stokes to the final ball of the day - leaves Gloucestershire's lower order to face a refreshed Durham attack on Monday morning.
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