Double the fun for Di Venuto
Michael Di Venuto’s ebullient double hundred put Durham within touching distance of their second consecutive LV= County Championship title as they flayed Nottinghamshire on the opening day of their title-defining fixture at the Riverside.
Di Venuto caned his second double hundred of the season from 256 balls in 350 minutes at the crease, going on to end the day in sight of 1,500 runs for the season as Durham began to take the bonus points they need to secure back-to-back titles.
By the close the Australian opener had compiled a free-flowing 219 from 273 balls during a marathon 371-minute stay.
Fellow opener Kyle Coetzer, who grafted through to his first championship hundred of the season, had earlier joined him in a club record opening partnership of 314 as the hosts ended the day on 377 for one.
The day could hardly have gone any better for Durham as they won the toss and elected to bat first under sunny skies on a pitch tinged with green.
It quickly became apparent, however, that there were only crumbs of encouragement for Nottinghamshire’s seamers, despite the home side not scoring a run for the first 15 minutes.
With Di Venuto and Coetzer both initially watchful, the scoreboard only ticked along, the pair showing fleeting glimpses of what was to become commonplace later in the day.
Having taken lunch on a solid 90 without loss, Di Venuto began the onslaught as he dealt severely with Luke Fletcher’s spell in the opening exchanges of the afternoon session.
Bringing up his half-century with an ugly slap through the covers, he then raked a similar delivery to the fence later in the over from the seamer. His partner was no slouch either as he slashed Mark Ealham for four through point.
With boundaries beginning to flow freely, Coetzer was able to bring up his half-century with his 11th four thanks to a pleasing push through cover off Ealham.
The right-hander brought up the milestone having faced 115 balls and playing only 15 scoring shots.
Di Venuto took back-to-back boundaries from another short Fletcher over soon afterwards and, in amongst a feast of boundaries from both players, Di Venuto soon signalled his fifth hundred of the season with a textbook push through covers for four off Darren Pattinson.
His century spanned 141 balls, 16 of which had been sent to the boundary.
With Notts now wilting in the sun at a picturesque Riverside, the pair raced past the 200 mark as well as the previous record opening partnership of 202 in championship cricket, set by Wayne Larkins and Graeme Fowler against Warwickshire at Darlington in 1993.
Indeed, by the time tea was taken Durham had powered on to 263 from 64 overs, Di Venuto taking 105 runs from a session that saw him and Coetzer strike no less than 25 boundaries.
The final session also saw little respite for the visitors, for whom Chris Read and Charlie Shreck failed to field for most of the day thanks to injury.
Read suffered a suspected dislocated left thumb earlier in the day in trying to take a routine Ealham delivery and was summarily carted off to hospital while Shreck suffered an injury to his knee.
As the pair closed in on the record partnership for Durham, Di Venuto reached his 150 with a pushed single into the off side from his 197th delivery while Coetzer produced a deft late cut from the dogged left-arm spin of Samit Patel to reach his hundred.
Coetzer’s milestone took him 215 balls and contained 20 fours in 283 minutes.
Durham’s 300 was then signalled by another dashing cut for four by Di Venuto, this time from Alex Hales.
The only bright moment of the day for Nottinghamshire came when Coetzer was run out at the non-striker’s end by Ealham, the veteran arrowing in a throw from backward point to see off the Scot for 107 from 248 balls after he was sent back by Di Venuto.
The pair’s 314 partnership was one short of the county’s all-time record first-class partnership for any wicket, made by Dale Benkenstein and Ottis Gibson to stave off relegation against Yorkshire at Headingley Carnegie three years ago.
Notts’ day was efficiently summed up when new batsman Will Smith got off the mark with five runs after he called Di Venuto through for a risky single to square-leg that saw the ball end up at the third-man boundary.
He survived when he appeared short of his ground with a direct hit, and reached his double-century not long afterwards with a controlled hook for a single off Fletcher.
The landmark saw him become the first player to score two double hundreds in a season for Durham and was brought up off 256 balls, 28 of which had disappeared to the boundary for four.
He and Smith registerd a fifty partnership as the skipper rubbed salt in Notts’ wounds by taking three authoritative boundaries in one Fletcher over late on.