Durham charge towards title
Nottinghamshire’s quest to keep alive the race for the LV= County Championship looks all but over as they ended day two of their clash with leaders Durham on 65 for two, a deficit of 583.
Replying to the hosts’ record first-innings 648 for five declared, they lost Scott Newman and Mark Wagh in the 24 overs afforded them in the final session of day two as Mark Davies made significant inroads with some hostile new-ball bowling at the Riverside.
Davies' two wickets put Durham in sight of their first bowling point, the home side having already collected five of the 11 they need to seal the title.
Six wickets for Durham inside 120 overs will guarantee them two bowling points, taking their bonus point tally to seven, meaning a draw (and the four extra points that would yield) would be sufficient to end the challenge of Notts and third-placed Somerset.
Newman was the first to depart for 16, beaten all ends up by a delivery that kept slightly low having survived a confident appeal earlier in the over.
Umpire Jeremy Lloyds rightly refused the initial shout that saw Newman offer no stroke, but he had no hesitation in sending back the left-hander second time around.
Alex Hales looked confident and compact in defence as he repelled a tight, threatening spell from Steve Harmison, and it was Davies at the other end who made further inroads when he ended Wagh’s innings for three by having him taken by Liam Plunkett in the gully following a loose flash outside off stump.
Hales and Samit Patel, who earlier in the day had the unenviable figures of 60-7-206-1 during a marathon bowling spell, safely saw out the day to end unbeaten on 23 and 15 respectively.
Previously it had been Durham who again made all the running with the bat.
The home side initially lost overnight double centurion Michael Di Venuto for 219 to the first ball of the day as Luke Fletcher, who produced a commendable opening spell from the Lumley End, had him and skipper Will Smith (27) caught at the wicket in successive overs.
Their worry was shortlived, however, as the experience of Dale Benkenstein and Shivnarine Chanderpaul quickly gave Durham back the impetus.
Chanderpaul was at his meticulous best in collecting runs through the many gaps in Notts’ defensive fields, while Benkenstein preferred to attack regularly in moving the scoreboard along freely.
Having taken lunch on 470 for three the pair set about building a huge score, Chanderpaul being typically unhurried despite greeting the much-suffering Patel’s opening over of the session with a delightful stroke that raced through the covers for four.
The West Indian batsman’s half-century soon followed from 103 balls in 133 minutes, containing four meticulously struck boundaries.
The same player brought up Durham’s 500 with a neat single to backward point, the feat coming from the first delivery of the 134th over.
With runs flowing in much the same manner as yesterday Benkenstein breezed past 1,000 runs for the season before bringing up his own century with a tucked single into the leg side off part-time spinner Ali Brown.
Benkenstein fell in predictable circumstances soon after for 105, aiming an ugly swipe at Hales only to edge to Shafayat. He had batted for 195 minutes.
He had scored his fourth hundred of the season from 178 balls, registering eight fours and smacking a solitary six over cover off Patel.
Ian Blackwell’s breezy knock, including a meaty six over long on again off the suffering Patel, ended for 29 when he holed out to not only the same bowler but also the same position.
Chanderpaul took tea on 99 not out but soon reached three figures in the final session thanks to a misfield by Darren Pattinson at midwicket, the milestone coming off 211 balls in 245 minutes. The diminutive left-hander had hit eight fours.
Durham’s innings was finally ended after Chanderpaul had fittingly cut Patel for two through point to register Durham’s highest first-class total, surpassing the 645 for six declared against Middlesex at Lord’s in 2002.
“It probably wasn’t one of my best,” former captain Benkenstein said of his 15th century for Durham, taking him top of the county list. “They were struggling with injuries, but we had a target and we just set out to reach it.
“I really enjoyed leading the side to their first title last season. But it was time to hand over, and Will Smith has done unbelievably well.”
Durham are offering free admission to the Riverside on Friday and Saturday as they look to seal the title.