Durham v Durham MCCU, Chester-le-Street, 3rd Day April 8, 2012

Durham MCCU bowled out for 18

Durham 315 for 4 dec. and 193 for 7 dec. beat Durham MCCU 117 and 18 (Stokes 4-3) by 373 runs

Durham MCCU have been bowled out for 18, the lowest innings total in first-class cricket anywhere in the world since 1983. It equals the tenth lowest score in first-class cricket since 1900.

In a scoreline that will renew the debate over whether such encounters should retain their first-class status, Durham UCCE, missing the injured allrounder Luke Blackaby, were bowled out by Durham in just 101 deliveries. Having been set an improbable 392 to win, it meant the students lost by 373 runs.

The entire game was something of a mismatch. Durham MCCU had been 18 for 6 in their first innings before a late rally lifted them to 117, while Durham declared in both their innings. Ben Stokes, the allrounder who made his debut in England's limited-overs teams last summer, claimed four wickets for three runs in Durham MCCU's second innings as the students collapsed from 15 for 3 to 18 all out.

"It's the worst day we've ever had," Graeme Fowler, the Durham MCCU coach and former England opening batsman told ESPNcricinfo afterwards. "It was dreadful. But, while we've had a nightmare, I hope people remember the good we do for the game. You know Michael Schumacher has the odd car crash: he's still a pretty good driver.

"Don't get me wrong: we were not good enough today. The pitch couldn't have been designed to help the Durham attack any more than it did - the ball was moving all over the place - but we played some soft cricket and the guys have left under no illusions that they have not performed well enough. They are mortified by their performance."

Durham MCCU has an outstanding record of producing cricketers. Their former graduates include Andrew Strauss, James Foster, Ben Hutton and Will Smith and, since their formation in 1997, 53 players have passed through their system and into the professional county game.

Nor are they funded by the ECB. Instead the six MCCU sides - Oxford, Cambridge, Loughborough, Durham, Cardiff and Leeds/Bradford - are funded by the MCC, with each receiving around £75,000 per year. Around 20% of current England-qualified county cricketers have passed through one of the six centres of excellence, with Durham accounting for 8% of them.

"At the time we started, I never thought we should have been given first-class status," Fowler admitted. "It just seemed like we were producing a rod for our own back to judge us by first-class results. That is not really what we are about. I wanted us to play against the counties - that is important - but I didn't see why those games had to be defined as first-class.

"There was already debate about whether Oxford and Cambridge should have first-class status but then they added us to the list and last winter they added Leeds/Bradford and Cardiff, too. I'm not convinced that is the right approach.

"The problem is that if we lose the first-class status we may well lose the funding, too. I just hope that, because of one nightmare performance, people don't forget all the good things we have done for England cricket. Give us half a chance and we'll keep producing players, really good players, and we'll do it on a pretty small budget. Days like this don't help but they shouldn't obscure the bigger picture."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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