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Jon Culley at Trent Bridge
August 23, 2011
Nottinghamshire 270 and v Durham 195
Durham, their title challenge under pressure after Lancashire knocked them off top spot last week, face a difficult task if they are to emerge from this match with a win after 2010 champions Nottinghamshire let it be known that while the Championship may have slipped from their grasp they can still play a role in determining which way this year's contest goes.
Nottinghamshire, who restricted Somerset to just six points from their rain-affected draw at Taunton last week, made Durham suffer this time as Riki Wessels and Andre Adams mastered difficult conditions to leave Phil Mustard's side to chase a challenging 321 in the fourth innings.
Wessels scored 84 from 68 deliveries, his highest score since joining Notts earlier in the season, before Adams, batting with his customary all-or-nothing approach, hit seven fours and two sixes in a 48-ball unbeaten 53, an innings that may have taken the game away from Durham, who had done themselves no favours earlier in the day by failing to secure a single batting bonus point.
Adams, whose 68 wickets with his canny swing bowling were the key to Notts winning the title in 2010, has been a revelation with the bat this season.
The 36-year-old New Zealander, who had managed only two half-centuries in four seasons at Trent Bridge before this one, has hit five during the current campaign and his aggregate of 508 first-class runs includes a staggering 174 in sixes, of which he has hit 29.
In an illustration of his phenomenal hitting power, he managed to clear the enormous boundary on the Fox Road side with one huge blow off Callum Thorp that sailed over the head of a hapless boundary fielder and landed several rows back.
Mitch Claydon finished with five wickets for 54 but Durham missed their absentees, with Steve Harmison, who might have been deadly on this track, missing through injury and Graham Onions and Ben Stokes on England duty.
At the start of the day, Durham had been their own worst enemies after resuming their innings at three down for 44. Dale Benkenstein and Ian Blackwell put on 91 for the fifth wicket, yet from 135 for 4 they somehow failed to pick up a single batting point.
Within two balls of the start they were four down without addition. After Luke Fletcher had completed the over left unfinished on Monday evening, Andre Adams fed Paul Collingwood a gentle away-swinger that the former England all-rounder, with negligible foot movement, edged to third slip.
Thus Benkenstein and Blackwell were left with a substantial rebuilding job on a pitch that, while no minefield, was not without hazards, mainly caused by the inconsistency of bounce. It might have prompted some batsmen to proceed with caution but these two decided attack was the better option and had added 91 in 20.1 overs before the former pushed at a ball from Fletcher that climbed on him and Steven Mullaney took the catch at second slip, diving across first, denying Benkenstein a half-century.
Mullaney then dropped a chance offered by Phil Mustard on 12 for which he again needed to fling himself. It was a difficult one but he had both hands on it, and Durham would have been 149 for 5.
But it was a let-off rather wasted by the visitors with more than a hint of carelessness given that this is such a crucial match in their quest to take the title back from Nottinghamshire. The guilty party was Blackwell, who had looked ominously well set when he completed a run-a-ball half-century but, with lunch only minutes away and Notts turning for the first time to Graeme White, somewhat threw his wicket away, giving the charge to his fellow left-armer spinner's sixth delivery but succeeding only in smacking the ball straight back at him.
White took a stunning catch, but then he needed to; had he missed he would probably have woken up in the Queen's Medical Centre, minus several teeth.
The 24-year-old former Northamptonshire bowler is given few opportunities in first-class cricket. Indeed, this is only his 13th first-class match and he is playing here only because Samit Patel is unavailable. Yet, despite being under pressure not to waste his chance, he produced an intelligent spell, limited to just 32 balls but yielding three wickets as he and Adams combined to finish off the Durham innings.
White found some turn to have Mustard caught off bat and pad, then Adams moved the ball away enough for Mark Wood and then Mitch Claydon to edge into the slips before Callum Thorp, having taken a lavish swing-and-miss at White, was so casual about getting back into his crease that Chris Read was granted as easy a stumping as he will make. With only five more runs needed for a batting point, it was a brainless dismissal.
From Durham's viewpoint, Notts' second innings started in the best possible way when Alex Hales, the first-innings centurion, fell first ball, following one from Claydon that climbed on him and edging to wicketkeeper Mustard. Karl Turner, released by Durham last season, perished to the same combination, driving loosely.
Darren Bravo, as in the first innings, shaped as if he would make an impact, but after a relatively watchful 30, hit straight to Benkenstein at mid-off.
Steven Mullaney fell to another ball that climbed from the pavilion end as he nudged a catch to second slip but Wessels took a heavy toll on Ian Blackwell as well as the debutant Mark Wood, who at least could claim a measure of revenge, although only by association, when Benkenstein held on to a second catch - this time a brilliant, leaping one-handed effort - at midwicket.
Paul Franks was bowled by Claydon, as was White, who offered no shot, but just as Durham began to contemplate a target in the 250 range, Adams began to change the picture. With support at first from Chris Read, who became a fifth victim for Claydon when he slashed at a wide delivery to be caught behind, and then Darren Pattinson, who added a valuable 15 after being dropped by the 'keeper on one, the veteran all-rounder did enough damage perhaps to have ended Durham's hopes of a third title in four years.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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