Durham top the table after smashing Sussex
Durham moved to top spot in the County Championship Division One after successive wins over Yorkshire and Sussex.
In the biggest game of the season so far Durham travelled to Scarborough to face leaders Yorkshire as part of the Scarborough festival. Batting first on a good wicket Durham amassed a huge score of 573 late into Day 2, with centuries from Mark Stoneman, Ben Stokes and Michael Richardson, his first century for Durham in Championship cricket. In reply Yorkshire could only muster 274 and so captain Paul Collingwood was able to enforce the follow on. At the end of Day 3 Yorkshire had reached 245 for 1 in thie second innings and it looked like they may get away with a draw which would have suited the hosts who had a sizeable points lead over Durham. Day 4 was a different story however as Durham managed to bowl out Yorkshire for 419 and chased down their target of 124 for the loss of only three wickets winning the match by 7 wickets.
This was a huge result and its fair to say that if Yorkshire had won this game they would have had one hand on the championship trophy with three games for them left to play. The win for Durham meant that they remained in second place but with the gap cut to a handful of points and with a game in hand over the leaders. Yorkshire may have regretted not hosting the match at Headingley, Leeds, their usual home venue where they have dominated the opposition this year.
Durham then faced third placed Sussex in their game in hand at the Riverside a few days later, knowing they only needed five points to top the table. Durham were without talisman Ben Stokes who had joined up with England for their one day series and injured bowlers Mark Wood and Jamie Harrison but Graham Onions was fit to play. Mitch Claydon was recalled from his loan at Kent to bolster the bowling attack which had been decimated by injury. Batting first again it looked by the end of Day One to have been a fairly even day. Durham only collected one batting point in their first innings score of 245, which was a disappointment considering they had reached 122 for 2 at one stage. They then collapsed to 176 for 6, with bowlers Anyon and Macgoffin being the chief tormentors with figures of 4 wickets for 87 and 3 for 57 respectively.. Opener Mark Stoneman continued with his good form from the previous match to top score with 96. (below)
By the end of the day Sussex were 70 for 3 and would have fancied their chances of passing Durhams total. They followed this up with a horrendous first session on Day 2, being bowled out for a paltry 112 in just 44 overs, roughly three hours of batting.
This total did take Sussex over the follow on target, and with a terrible weather forecast for Day Four it was up to Durham to press home their advantage as quickly as possible. After an uncertain start to the innings in which they stuttered along to 54 for 3 they ended Day 2 on 212 for 6, a more than handy lead of 345 on a wicket that was offering plenty of movement for the seamers. All the talk was whether Paul Collingwood would declare overnight to force a much needed win with everyone expecting Day 4 to be washed out completely. The general consensus among fans was that he should, but Colly stuck to his guns and Durham batted on into Day 3, the captain either backing his bowlers to bowl Sussex out quickly or being mindful of his premature declaration against Yorkshire early in the season which backfired and resulted in defeat. After a few lusty blows and slogs Durham amassed a lead of 400 and declared their second innings on 268 for 8, Phil Mustard hitting 73 of the runs. Durham then had the best part of 6 hours or around 80 overs or so (from memory, might be a bit off) to bowl Sussex out on Day 3.
It looked reasonably easy going for Sussex early on despite Wells being out to Onions in the first over but they then lost wickets at an alarming rate and ended up being all out for 116 in 39 overs before 3 o clock. Durham won the match by 285 runs and with plenty of time to spare in the end, although it did as predicted piss it down all of Friday, the final scheduled day of the match, thankfully it was all wrapped up by then. Academy product Arshad again put in a fine bowling performance with figures of 3 wickets for 16 and 3 for 18 and looks sure to feature prominentley in the coming seasons. Mitch Claydon (below)who has signed a permanent deal with Kent for the 2014 season took six wickets in his comeback match.
Fans were certainly in buoyant mood after the game and took advantage of the early finish with a few pints sunk in Austins bar and the league table proudly displayed on the screens via the red button on teletext. I also sampled a few more of the real ales in the Butchers arms on the Front street that night, knowing there was a day off from the cricket on Friday.
LV County Championship – Division One
So Durham top the table by 14.5 points with only trips to in form Derbyshire and Sussex again (strange schedule)and a home game against Notts to come. We look good to claim the championship at this stage but weather may still have a say in the destiny of the title and a shock result is never a real shock in the championship, two wins out of their three games would probably do it.
The next home game begins on Tuesday 17th September against Notts. Whether Durham will try and boost the crowd by cutting prices for a crucial match and potentially title winning one remains to be seen.