Harmison vigil salvages draw

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Ben Harmison

Ben Harmison's patient innings took Durham to safety against Essex, but he holed out off Alastair Cook's part-time spin on 96

Ben Harmison narrowly failed to record what would have been only his second County Championship century as Durham held on for a draw against relegated Essex at Chelmsford.

He followed up his 66 in the first innings with 96 as the visitors finished on 234 for six after resuming the final day in pursuit of a victory target of 459.

It was one they never attempted and for quite a while defeat stared them in the face.

From an overnight 31 for one, they lost another three wickets before the total advanced into three figures, two of them through gross errors of judgment as both Dale Benkenstein and Michael Di Venuto were bowled shouldering arms.

Benkenstein committed his error against off-spinner Tom Westley while Di Venuto gifted his wicket to paceman Chris Wright after scoring 58, which included eight fours.

When Ian Blackwell was lbw to Westley with the total on 43, Essex looked firm favourites to claim only their third championship win of the season in their last game before dropping into Division Two.

But Harmison, with fine support from Phil Mustard, were to deny them with a stand of 91 in 38 overs before both teams called it a day.

Harmison's half-century spanned 142 deliveries but he was able to accelerate late on as Alastair Cook, with his gentle off-spin, and Westley concentrated mainly on getting through their overs as quickly as possible to ensure Essex were not penalised for a slow over-rate.

But Harmison's hopes of adding to the century he took off the Warwickshire attack three years ago ended when Cook tossed the ball up and he despatched it to Tony Palladino at long-on.

His innings, which occupied 197 deliveries, contained 14 fours, and his dismissal resulted in the players shaking hands to signal the end of the game.

It was somewhat surprising as an hour still remained, but Essex were no doubt more concerned about setting off for Taunton as quickly as possible for tomorrow's Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-final against Somerset.

Mustard's vigil brought him 24 from 103 deliveries as Durham emerged with six points.

Essex picked up eight but that was not enough to prevent them finishing bottom of Division One.