Collingwood-led resurgence continues for Durham
Durham 234 (Stokes 78, Andrew 5-86) and 154 for 4 (Benkenstein 62*, Collingwood 53*) beat Worcestershire 120 (Rushworth 5-44) and 264 (Hughes 105, Thorp 5-59) by six wickets
"First class cricket is tough", was now Paul Collingwood summed it up after leading Durham to a fourth consecutive County Championship victory this afternoon. "What's really shone through is that the guys have a lot of character when it does get tough". What he did not say in quite so many words is that his young charges have ideal role models in himself and his middle order partner Dale Benkenstein.
When the pair came together during the eleventh over of Durham's run chase the innings was looking, to say the least, wobbly. An early burst of three cheap wickets from Alan Richardson had reduced them to 35 for 4, and Collingwood admitted that when he walked to the crease he was "breathing heavily, feeling worried and concerned".
The same would also have been true of Durham's supporters, but if they sought reassurance they had only to check on the records of the two men who had responsibility to get the job done. Only Ben Stokes had scored more first class runs for the county in 2012 than Benkenstein and Collingwood, and they immediately set about reconstructing the innings.
Both went about their business studiously, taking singles when they were there to be had, and rarely failing to take advantage of the loose ball. Benkenstein, who finished on 62, was the more expansive, playing especially attractively through the off side while gathering nine boundaries.
Collingwood, who was content to keep pace picking up twos and threes, and once, after straight driving Gareth Andrew, an all run four, finished on 53. They delivered Durham safely to lunch requiring just 30 to win, and knocked them off at a run-a-minute in the afternoon. Their undefeated partnership of 119, the second highest of the match, had occupied 32 trouble-free overs.
All this stability formed a contrast with the events of the first half hour of the day. Unsurprisingly, it was Richardson who caused Collingwood his respiratory discomfort as he left the Don Robson pavilion to bat. There is no great mystery about Richardson; he's just a very accurate and quite nippy bowler. He runs in off ten powerful paces before leaping into the delivery stride and bowling at the off stump. One of his two wickets in Durham's first innings was lbw, and two of the three he took this morning fell the same way. The third was bowled.
Keaton Jennings began the day - Will Smith having been dismissed off the last ball on Wednesday evening - but he only lasted eight balls before Richardson knocked back his middle and off stumps. Stokes only faced three more than Jennings, in that time hitting two rasping fours, before becoming not the first batsman in this match to play across the line and fall lbw. The ball may have been a little high, but then Stokes might have been a little more circumspect so early in his innings.
The last of the three to go was Mark Stoneman, who announced himself with an elegantly driven four straight of mid-off from Chris Russell's bowling, and went on to make 22 before shaping to play Richardson, bowling over the wicket to the left hander, through mid-on. He missed.
However, when Moeen Ali came on to bowl his off-breaks shortly before lunch and conceded 15 runs in his second over, the game was up. Benkenstein and Collingwood had broken the back of their task, and took little time to finish it in the afternoon.
So Collingwood, whose side had not won in the Championship before he replaced Phil Mustard as captain, has presided on the field over a very narrow defeat at Arundel, which might have been expected to knock the stuffing out of a side already low in confidence, then wins against Middlesex, Surrey, Nottinghamshire last week, and now Worcestershire.
Asked to reflect on his experience of the captaincy he said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have taken over. It's a great challenge at a great stage in my career to do it. I've been surprised how much I have enjoyed it." Then, when invited to look ahead, he added: "I'm not one to go out there and look for it or put my name forward, but if I think I can take a team forward. I've got two years left on my contract and I would love to do it for the next two years as long as things go well."