A MAIDEN century by Cameron Steel kept Durham afloat against Northamptonshire at Chester-le-Street as they reached 290 for six at tea on the third day, leading by 118.

Steel was on 94 when Northants turned to the occasional left-arm spin of Chesney Hughes and his first ball, a juciy full toss, was whacked over long-on for six.

It took a jubilant Steel to his hundred off 166 balls with 14 fours, and a second six followed off another Hughes full toss as the 21-year-old batsman reached 117 at tea.

Durham were still 74 adrift when Steel was joined by Paul Collingwood on 98 for four, but after being dropped on nought the skipper contributed 54 to a stand of 143.

He was unable to cash in on a stroke of fortune on 50 when a ball from Rory Kleinveldt nipped back and brushed the off stump. Collingwood started to walk before realising the bail, although slightly dislodged, had not come off.

The pitch flattened after the first hour and Steel grew in confidence, cutting strongly and playing sweetly off his legs as his second 50 came off only 63 balls.

Michael Richardson departed for 14 just before tea when he attempted an ambitious pull off Nathan Buck in the sixth over of the new ball. He edged it to Adam Rossington.