Durham seal innings win despite Barker ton
Durham 602 for 6 dec beat Warwickshire 186 and 313 by an innings and 103 runs
A maiden first-class century from Keith Barker couldn't prevent Durham from completing an innings and 103-run victory over Warwickshire at Edgbaston. The win takes Durham up to second place in the table, just three points behind Lancashire, who have played one fewer game. The teams meet at Chester-le-Street in a match that starts on Sunday.
In the end, Durham were made to work for this win. When Rikki Clarke became the seventh Warwickshire man to fall in their second innings, there was a possibility the match might not even make it to lunch. As it transpired, however, the game was deep inside the final hour by the time Ruel Brathwaite plucked out the final two wickets.
That Warwickshire came so close to saving the game was almost entirely due to the efforts of their final four batsmen. It took Durham 69 overs to prise out the final three wickets as Barker and Naqaash Tahir, in particular, showed a level of resolve that put their top-order colleagues to shame.
The absence of Steve Harmison also delayed Durham. Harmison managed just five overs on the final day as he nursed a sprained joint in his spine. He's also a doubt for the Lancashire game.
In many ways, Warwickshire didn't deserve a draw. The majority of their batting and all of their bowling was pretty awful and Durham outplayed them in all departments. But the resistance of Barker and Naqaash was excellent. Neither man had previously made a first-class half-century, but they put the affable nature of this pitch into perspective with a stand if 117 in 41.2 overs.
Unlike many left-handers, Barker is not a particularly elegant batsman. The 24-year-old former pro footballer strikes the ball with tremendous power, however, and played in an admirably straight and compact manner. Before this innings, his previous first-class score was just 31 but, such was the quality of his driving and pulling, in particular, that there appears no obvious reason why he should not develop into a genuine allrounder capable of batting in the top six and bowling as part of a four-man seam attack.
Naqaash also impressed. When he made his Championship debut, in 2004, he often acted as nightwatchman and produced several valuable contributions. His batting had regressed since then, however, and this was only his sixth score in excess of 30 in 56 first-class games. For the most part, he was utterly strokeless. He defended stoutly, however and, unlike his top-order colleagues he refused to be drawn into strokes outside the off stump. His 195-ball vigil lasted 69 overs - just 10 minutes short of four hours - and left him suffering from cramp in both arms.
In the end, however, it was all in vain. In truth, their resistance only highlighted the fragility of Warwickshire's top-order batting. On a pitch that has remained docile throughout, Warwickshire's specialist batsmen continued to attach far too little value to their wickets with Jim Troughton, Darren Maddy and Rikki Clarke all perishing to ill-disciplined prods outside the off stump, while Tim Ambrose played around a straight ball.
But, as the ball softened and the bowlers tired, Durham's attack struggled to finish off the game. There was little help for the spinners and, though Callum Thorp looked dangerous throughout, Ben Stokes struggled to maintain a tight enough line. In the end it was Blackwell who made the breakthrough. The over after Barker reached his chanceless century, he edged one that was pushed on to him to slip.
Still Durham's wait went on, however. Chris Metters lasted for 77 minutes, helping Naqaash add another 55 runs in 25 overs and resist everything Durham could throw at them with the second new ball.
Finally, however, just as it appeared that Warwickshire might pull-off a highly unlikely escape, Brathwaite struck the decisive blow. First he produced a quick yorker to end Chris Metters' 80-minute battle, before he managed to persuade Naqaash to follow one that may have bounced more than the batsman expected and edge the ball to third slip. Just 54 balls remained.
It meant Warwickshire ended with just one point from the game - their worst return in a championship since Leicestershire inflicted a similar result in 2002 - while it was the third time in four games that Durham had taken a maximum 24 points.
"We've got to be better than that," Warwickshire's director of cricket, Ashley Giles admitted afterwards. "In the first innings, too many of our batsmen played a part in their own dismissals and we've had too many people getting 20s, 30s and 40s without going on to get 100s.
"At least our lower-order batsmen showed good courage. But we should never have been in the position where they had to bat for two sessions to save the game. We have to learn from this and do better."