Davies back as Durham eye title

Lv County Championship

Martin Saggers & Steve Harmison

Canterbury was the scene for Durham's maiden title win last season. This week they have the chance to celebrate a second championship pennant in front of their home support

Durham have the timely opportunity to seal a second consecutive LV= County Championship title against their nearest rivals Nottinghamshire.

England’s newest first-class county require 11 points from the match at Chester-le-Street, which starts tomorrow, to prevent Notts from catching them in Division One.

Whoever takes home the trophy will win unprecedented sums of prize money for England’s first-class competition.

The winners of the championship pennant receive £500,000. The players share £350,000, while the county itself would take £150,000. Last year Durham’s maiden title won them £100,000.

Second place in the championship is awarded £215,000, with £115,000 going to the third place county.

Durham’s formidable pace battery is without two of its regulars. Graham Onions has been called up to England’s squad for the remainder of the NatWest one-day series, while Callum Thorp, the Australian bowler, is carrying a back injury.

Mark Davies and Mitchell Claydon replace the duo in the only two expected changes to Durham’s XI from their rain-affected draw with Somerset. Gareth Breese is likely to be 12th man.

Durham head coach Geoff Cook said: “We’re missing Graham Onions and Callum Thorp, but Mark Davies is fit again so he slots back in nicely as does Mitchell Claydon.

“We haven’t played a great deal of four-day cricket leading up to this. We had a game at home against Somerset, which was going OK, but then it got rained off.

“Last year the team showed an incredible resilience in winning the title. Every day is a tough day’s cricket. Our one-day cricket hasn’t been quite as good but they’ve played really well in four-day cricket.

Andre Adams

Andre Adams will not discover whether he is included by Notts until a last-minute fitness test at the Riverside

“They practice diligently as a group, but ultimately it’s about doing it over the next three days.”

Notts still harboured hopes of catching Durham in their last outing against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge, but captain Chris Read could not agree a fourth-innings target with opposite number Anthony McGrath.

The Yorkshire captain rejected Read’s offer to chase 350 in 70 overs on the last day, leading the relegation-threatened visitors to bat out for a draw.

Andre Adams faces a late fitness test before a decision is taken as to whether the all-rounder can feature for Notts at the Riverside.

The former New Zealand international has been laid low with a virus but bowled in the nets on Monday and will travel with the squad before a decision is made.

With Paul Franks (finger) absent from the team that drew with Yorkshire, Luke Fletcher, Darren Pattinson, Mark Ealham, Andy Carter and Charlie Shreck complete the seam options. Two of them will miss out if Adams plays.

Scott Newman and Alex Hales will open the batting as Notts continue to search for a strong opening stand.

“All of our batsmen are capable of scoring runs and they need to prove that in this match,” said Notts director of cricket Mick Newell.

“We need big contributions from our top seven because (Steve) Harmison is very adept at knocking off tail-enders.

“Durham are a very good all-round team and although they don’t score runs particularly quickly, they are a patient batting side and they’ll always back themselves to take 20 wickets.”

Durham are offering free admission for days three and four (September 11-12). Tickets for all days can be arranged via the Durham CCC Box Office, during office hours, on 0844 499 4466.