Durham 433 for 8 (Lees 195, Clark 82) lead Gloucestershire 316 by 117 runs
Lees anchored the innings with a flawless knock of 195, posting his highest score as a Durham player since his move to Seat Unique Riverside in 2018. Graham Clark provided the perfect complement with 82 as the two shared a stand worth 195 after the hosts were reduced to 109 for four in reply to Gloucestershire’s 316.
The two batters rebuilt the innings and propelled Durham ahead in the game, having skittled the visitors’ tail within the first half-hour of day two. It allowed Brydon Carse to tee off late in the day to push the hosts into a 117-run lead at the close with two first-innings wickets remaining.
Resuming on 280 for six, Gloucestershire put their foot down before the arrival of the new ball. Zafar Gohar smashed three boundaries off Carse’s first over, while Josh Shaw cleared the rope with a huge strike over long-on against Parkinson to earn a second batting bonus point.
Durham answered fire with fire as Carse responded with a hostile spell to make the breakthrough. Shaw could only glove behind to Robinson down the leg-side and the next ball was too good for Matt Taylor. Zaman Akhter survived the hat-trick ball and another barrage from Carse before the arrival of the new ball.
Ben Raine then wrapped up the innings within three deliveries with the new Kookaburra in hand by bowling Gohar and pinning Dominic Goodman lbw, securing maximum bowling points for the hosts.
Shaw made quick inroads for the visitors to remove Michael Jones, but Lees responded by taking the attack to the Gloucestershire bowlers. The left-hander shared a stand worth 67 with Scott Borthwick before the Durham captain picked out substitute fielder Jack Taylor as he aimed to clear the short boundary, presenting Shaw with his second wicket.
Lees worked his way to his fifty from only 56 balls, but Durham had issues at the other end when David Bedingham emulated his captain’s dismissal falling three balls before the lunch break. Ollie Robinson continued the procession after the interval as fell caught and bowled to Goodman, leaving Durham in trouble at 109 for four after losing three wickets for 32.
The home side required patience at the crease and Lees duly delivered without taking any risks on his march to three figures. He showed composure in a slow grind through the nineties before bringing up his third hundred of the term after striking Gohar straight down the ground to the fence.
Clark offered a useful foil at the other end to support the former England opener. After a period of consolidation, the two batters upped the ante and cranked up the pressure on the Gloucestershire bowlers.
James Bracey turned to a variety of options, but could not stop the onslaught from the fifth-wicket stand, especially from Lees who powered his way to his highest score of the season by passing 150 with three-straight pulls to the boundary against Akhter.
Ben Charlesworth took the ball in the 70th over and finally broke the stand for 195 when Clark drilled the ball straight to Chris Dent at short mid-wicket, falling narrowly short of a deserved century. Carse and Lees guided the hosts to their third batting bonus point before the new ball.
Matt Taylor found his rhythm from the off with the new ball to end Lees’ brilliant knock for 195 and then Raine first ball to give the visitors hope of skittling the hosts late in the day. But, Carse stamped his authority in the final hour, reaching fifty from 45 balls and smashing three sixes in the process, ensuring Durham ended the evening in command closing in on maximum batting points.