Durham hit the front again
Durham kept their LV= County Championship title ambitions alive by completing a 208-run victory over Sussex at the PROBIZ County Ground.
In their penultimate game of the campaign, Durham bowled Sussex out for 312 in their second innings by 2.16pm on the final day to go top of Division One with 211 points.
Durham do not play in next week’s round of matches, in which close rivals Lancashire and Warwickshire – each with a game in hand – take on Hampshire and Nottinghamshire respectively, but they then have a home game against Worcestershire in the final week of the season.
Matt Prior stroked a brilliant 77 for Sussex but Ian Blackwell struck a vital blow for Durham by having him leg before en route to a five-wicket haul.
Graham Onions then hurried Durham to their seventh win of the season with a burst down the Hove slope immediately after lunch which brought him the wickets of Wayne Parnell and Amjad Khan in quick succession.
Parnell had hit a bright and breezy 49-ball 44, in an eighth-wicket stand of 65 with Ben Brown, holding Durham up after they had earlier worked hard to split Sussex’s sixth-wicket pair of Prior and Michael Yardy.
Onions finished with 3-49, while slow left-armer Blackwell added three more victims to his two overnight wickets to finish with well-deserved figures of 5-102.
Defeat for Sussex drags them further into the relegation picture. They are just three points above seventh-placed Worcestershire, with Hampshire now only 22 points adrift at the foot of the table.
Sussex had resumed on 119 for four and nightwatchman James Anyon was dismissed in the sixth over of the morning, well held at short-leg by Mark Stoneman off Mitch Claydon.
However, Prior and Yardy, both looking to play their shots, saw off Claydon and Onions before also taking the attack to Durham’s spinners, Blackwell and Scott Borthwick.
Leg-spinner Borthwick received some particularly heavy punishment, Prior twice driving him past mid-on for fours and hitting him beautifully through extra-cover. Yardy also swept the same bowler powerfully as the experienced duo took their partnership to 71.
Blackwell, however, finally got the breakthrough after being switched to the Cromwell Road End, winning an lbw shout against Prior when the England Test wicketkeeper tried to flick a ball to fine-leg. His 77 had taken him only 88 balls and included 15 fours.
Yardy was next to go for 34, superbly held at silly mid-off by Will Smith off bat and pad as he pushed forward to Blackwell, but Brown and Parnell’s alliance took Sussex through to lunch at 274 for seven.
Parnell, who had edged Onions between keeper and first slip for his sixth four earlier in the over, then fell with the total at 287 and the end came soon after last man Monty Panesar, to the delight of a decent Hove crowd, had clubbed Blackwell for three leg-side sixes.
Blackwell had the last laugh when Panesar aimed another violent blow and was bowled for 18. Durham took 23 points from the game and Sussex four.