Solanki all but ensures Worcs survival
Vikram Solanki’s century helped guide Worcestershire to within a whisker of LV= County Championship Division One safety before Durham hit back to keep their faint title hopes alive by claiming maximum bowling bonus points.
Going into the day 21 for one in reply to the hosts’ 264, the visiting side knew a first-innings total in excess of 300 would ensure maximum batting bonus points and, subsequently, top-flight cricket next season.
And, despite slipping from 255 for three to 288 all out, Worcestershire should well achieve their ultimate ambition - thanks, in the main, to Solanki’s brilliant 124 - given how unlikely Hampshire are to force victory against Warwickshire.
Durham, meanwhile, have the small matter of chasing a third championship crown in four years to concentrate on and remain in with a shout, albeit a small one, after Paul Collingwood sparked a dramatic collapse with two wickets in three balls immediately after tea.
With Worcestershire having not lost a wicket in the morning and only two in the afternoon, Collingwood turned the game on its head in the first over of the final session.
First, Alexei Kervezee, on 43, clipped the seamer to midwicket, where Dale Benkenstein took an oustanding one-handed catch, before Matt Pardoe sliced to gully two balls later.
Solanki remained, though, and steadied the ship somewhat in a stand of 28 with Gareth Andrew.
But Durham sensed their opportunity, especially after Callum Thorp claimed the prized wicket of Solanki, who fended to Michael Di Venuto at second slip.
Spurred on by removing the visitors’ centurion, Thorp quickly wrapped things up thereafter as he accounted for Andrew, Richard Jones and Kemar Roach, with Graham Onions removing Ben Scott in-between.
Both Onions and Thorp were luckless in the morning as Durham’s labours proved fruitless despite them keeping four slips and two gullies in for most of the session.
The breakthrough finally came in the afternoon session when left-hander James Cameron tried to paddle Ian Blackwell round the corner and was bowled for 74.
He had put on 138 with Solanki, who had 11 fours in his 72-ball half-century but showed unusual restraint in adding only 42 during the afternoon.
When leg-spinner Scott Borthwick was finally introduced, Solanki edged him for four before re-discovering the middle of his bat with a gorgeous cover-driven six to move to 99.
He went down the pitch to the next ball and survived a stumping chance prior to turning the next ball just out of short-leg’s reach to complete his third hundred of the season, off 186 balls.
Things were looking rosy at that stage with the visitors eyeing a considerable first-innings lead.
However, they did not count on Collingwood’s intervention and, after dismissing their visitors, Durham still had time to reach 51 without loss at the close.
Di Venuto was 14 not out, while Will Smith had hit five fours en route to an unbeaten 29.