YORKSHIRE took a big step towards the quarter-finals of the Royal London Cup by beating the team who knocked them out at that stage of the tournament last year.
Victory by 32 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method was revenge for the 31-run reversal at Headingley last August and left Yorkshire probably needing to win just one of their last three group games to qualify.
Yorkshire play Leicestershire at Headingley today (10.30 start) before hosting Somerset at Scarborough on Wednesday and Northamptonshire at Headingley a fortnight tomorrow.
This was their third win to go with one defeat and a no-result, the visitors scoring 130-2 before rain washed out proceedings after Durham had earlier made 224-7 in a match already reduced by rain to 43 overs per side.
On paper, this was the toughest of Yorkshire’s eight group games, but they made it look relatively comfortable.
After the early mizzle had cleared to leave behind a bank of grey cloud, Yorkshire produced a disciplined bowling performance having won the toss.
It was led by Liam Plunkett and Steve Patterson, the former in the squad for Thursday’s fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge.
Plunkett took 3-40 from nine overs, while Patterson returned 1-32 from his nine.
With a little help from their team-mates, Plunkett and Patterson ensured the Durham innings never got going to the extent that one would have expected from the defending champions.
Not that the home side helped themselves.
Their innings was a catalogue of unforced errors, highlighted by the first wicket to fall, that of Mark Stoneman.
The left-hander had just lifted Tim Bresnan for a six over mid-wicket and a four over mid-on off successive balls before tamely tapping the next delivery to Glenn Maxwell to point, leaving the hosts 23-1 in the sixth over.
Phil Mustard and Scott Borthwick added 57 in 14 overs before both also made a present of their wickets.
Mustard tried to flick Plunkett through third-man and was caught behind, Plunkett striking again five balls later when Borthwick lazily lofted him to deep mid-wicket. Thus both batsmen were cut off in their prime after scoring 32, and Durham were 84-3 in the 20th over.
On a sluggish pitch and with the outfield slow, with play not starting until 11.45 after the rain, it was not the most convincing platform.
It should have been 92-4, but Paul Collingwood was dropped on three at mid-off by Matthew Fisher off Adil Rashid and had started to walk off as the chance was shelved.
Collingwood rubbed salt into Yorkshire’s wounds by striking Rashid for a straight six and a four through mid-off, but the former England man was on his way for 17 when he advanced at Rashid once too often and was stumped as Durham fell to 128-4 in the 29th.
Graham Clark, the 22-year-old right-hander who hit a first-team best 91 not out against Yorkshire in the T20 Blast at Headingley last month, top-scored with 42 from 44 balls with five fours before he was fifth out at 158 in the 34th over.
Again, it was an unflattering shot, Clark slog-slicing Plunkett to Maxwell at point.
Durham managed only 66 runs in the last 10 overs as Yorkshire kept the lid on a charge not aided by the fact that John Hastings, the hard-hitting Australian pace bowler, did not arrive at the crease until there were only 4.3 overs remaining.
Hastings, who hammered 43 not out from just 13 balls in that same T20 game against Yorkshire last month, finally got to the crease when Ryan Pringle top-edged a pull from Bresnan to the wicketkeeper.
Hastings managed only two before he was seventh out at 198 in the 40th, caught behind chasing a wide one from Patterson, and Durham were grateful for an unbeaten 35 from Gordon Muchall from 26 deliveries.
Five batsmen passed 30, but no one got fifty and really took hold of the innings.
That was not the case with Yorkshire.
Following the early loss of Lees, who ran himself out when he pushed Chris Rushworth to Pringle at mid-off, Maxwell grabbed the innings by the scruff of the neck.
The Australian, who has run into form after scoring 111 against Worcestershire and 55 against Surrey, looked good from the get-go as he lofted his Victoria team-mate Hastings for a four over cover.
Maxwell has power and invention but also finesse; a sumptuous late-cut off Collingwood to the third-man boundary was comfortably the shot of the day.
Yorkshire lost Andrew Hodd with the total at 80 in the 16th over, caught behind attempting to cut Borthwick, but Maxwell forged on.
He had a life on 61 when he was dropped by wicketkeeper Mustard, diving to his right off Hastings, with the score 120-2, but it hardly mattered.
Maxwell had moved to 65 from 51 balls with five fours and two sixes when play was washed out, his stand with Gary Ballance (26) worth exactly 50, with the man they call “The Big Show” once more putting on a show.