Durham enjoy seaming success
Durham employed their ruthless pace battery to great effect against Nottinghamshire as they effectively wrapped up the LV= County Championship Division One title for the second time in as many seasons on day three of their clash at the Riverside.
Liam Plunkett’s 6-85 and four wickets for Mark Davies enabled the home side to first dismiss their nearest challengers for 384 in their first innings before enforcing the follow-on and reducing them to 52 for two at the close.
With Notts still 212 in arrears chasing down Durham’s first-innings score of 648 for five, they are still faced with the task of seeing off a buoyant home attack intent heading into the final day in the north east.
Away from the narrative of an enthralling game, however, was Durham’s quest to confirm their status as the top four-day side in the country.
They began the day knowing four wickets would guarantee them the bonus points needed to effectively secure their second consecutive championship title at the conclusion of this game, a feat they achieved little more than an hour into the afternoon session.
The moment came when Ali Brown fell victim to Plunkett for a well-made 59, the seamer inducing an edge that wicketkeeper Phil Mustard snapped up to spark loud celebrations from a bumper crowd treated to free admission.
It was far from plain sailing for Durham, however, as they grassed at least six chances during Notts’ first-innings. Indeed, the day began with Notts on 65 for two and Alex Hales fishing the luckless Steve Harmison’s first ball to Will Smith at third slip only for the skipper to shell the chance.
Harmison, who bowled sharply for no reward throughout the day, had Hales dropped in identical fashion again soon afterwards before Patel was inexplicably put down by Mitchell Claydon off Plunkett at square-leg from a simple, waist-high opportunity.
Hales looked confident in defence however he again flashed a ball through the slips to bring up his half-century from 103 balls.
The opening breakthrough looked all the more important when on 44 Patel was fortunate that a defensive shot off Plunkett failed to remove the bails despite rolling against the stumps, and in the same over he finally got his man caught sharply in the gully thanks to a flashing cut.
Bilal Shafayat lasted only two balls as he was adjudged lbw to Plunkett for four, who also removed the classy-looking Hales before lunch for 62 with a delivery that kept a touch low and nipped back.
Chris Read, who surprisingly appeared at number seven given he dislocated a thumb on day one, and Brown then combined to add 95 in 24.3 solid overs to frustrate the home side.
Passing lunch the pair offered glimpses of how straightforward Durham had made batting appear, with Read showing no discomfort in hitting pleasingly through the covers as well as through square-leg.
He was dropped by a diving Mustard off Harmison when on 19, however he hung around long enough to see his partner through to a solid half-century – the landmark coming off 81 balls and containing seven fours.
The day belonged to the home side, however, and Brown was tempted into walking and nudging at a ball from Davies when on 59 to hand not only Mustard a simple chance but also Durham the points they needed to ensure their name is on the trophy at the end of this clash.
Read was in no mood for celebration as he brought up a richly-deserved half-century soon afterwards, the Notts skipper bringing up the achievement from 83 balls with an unusual six thanks to Mustard’s throw to the boundary after a well-run two to Harmison at square-leg.
He delivered more punishment to Plunkett’s reintroduction with a hearty, conventional six accompanied by two fours – however they proved his last as the same bowler had him snapped up in the same over by Dale Benkenstein at first slip to send him back for 65.
Davies comfortably cleaned up Luke Fletcher for a paltry single, with Notts at this point looking in severe strife at 270 for eight.
Enter Mark Ealham and Darren Pattinson, whose swashbuckling 113-run partnership lasted only 22.2 overs but flew along at five runs an over.
Granted, the pair rode their luck – especially early on when Claydon again let a simple chance off Ealham slip through his fingers at deep backward square – however they cut, mowed and drove with vigour in taking Notts in sight of the follow-on.
Just as quickly as the thought of escaping the clutches of Durham’s seamers for a second time seemed possible, it was extinguished with the dismissal of Ealham for 49 as he shaved a Plunkett delivery into the reliable hands of Benkenstein at first slip.
Soon 383 for nine became 384 all out, Pattinson doing the only best he could in accompaniment with the injured Charlie Shreck before the former fell caught behind off Plunkett for a season-best 59.
Nottinghamshire’s second innings, begun still 264 runs behind, got off to an awful start when Newman (nine) drove Claydon into the hands of Plunkett in the gully.
Hales, who began the day looking in good touch, continued his elegant run-scoring with a host of boundaries off anything loose – however Mark Wagh failed to keep him company and departed at the fag end of an enthralling day caught behind for six thanks to a Davies delivery that squared him up.
Hales (33) and nightwatchman Pattinson (four) were left with the task of returning in the morning.