Onions puts Durham on brink of title
Durham 325 (Borthwick 89, Smith 81, Palladino 6-90) and 37 for 1 beat Derbyshire 298 (Borrington 75, Chanderpaul 53, Rushworth 5-47, Onions 4-62) and 63 (Onions 5-23) by nine wickets
The dream of an England recall in his home Ashes Test might have been denied to Graham Onions in a summer of frustrations in his international career but he may look back and decide that bowling Durham to the title was reasonably adequate consolation.
He is on the brink of that now after taking 5 for 23 at the Racecourse, where Derbyshire, against all probability, were comprehensively blitzed, bowled out for 63, leaving Durham needing to score only 37 runs to complete a victory that leaves them just one more win away from winning the Championship for a third time in six years.
After Yorkshire's bid to chase down a contrived target at Hove was foiled by the weather, Durham lead Division One by 27 and a half points and will look to finish the job against Nottinghamshire at Chester-le-Street, starting on Tuesday.
Their final match is against Sussex at Hove, while Yorkshire's remaining games are against Middlesex at Headingley and Surrey at The Oval.
Onions took 45 Championship wickets in seven matches as Durham won their second title in 2009. This year he has 60 wickets in 10 appearances, five times taking five wickets or more in an innings. Nine of those came in this match, the last five in the space of 41 balls with four runs conceded during a 15-over unbroken spell.
Paul Collingwood, whose captaincy record now stands at 13 wins from 20 Championship games in charge, praised Onions for his resilience in the face of the repeated disappointments he has been dealt by the England selectors since winning his last Test cap in June last year, a comment to which Onions responded by saying he had learned how to put setbacks of that nature to one side.
"I learned a lot about myself when I was injured for such a long time," Onions said. "I learned about mental preparation and getting yourself ready for the tough games you have to expect every time you play.
"You have to push those disappointments to one side and forget about it. If you perform well against good opposition you get recognised. It's trying to force my way into the side and trying to win things that keeps me going and we are close to winning things."
A place on the plane to Australia this winter would fulfil his own goal but Onions agreed that a title would bring just as much satisfaction.
"It would be incredible," he said. "It is hard to put it into words what it would mean. There are a lot of very good teams that don't win championships and the character that the lads keep showing to put in performances and win us games is unbelievable, although we have to remember that we have not won it yet."
Nonetheless, it is difficult to imagine them being overhauled now, given that the unpredictable September weather is more than likely to play a part in denying Yorkshire points.
For Derbyshire, the two weeks ahead are beginning to look bleak again after three wins in four had raised the prospect of an unlikely act of defiance from the season's short-priced relegation favourites.
Having begun the fourth day 41 runs in front, with the first innings still incomplete, no outcome but a draw could be envisaged. Durham, who had found scoring runs on a slow pitch no easier than their hosts, increased their tempo enough to claw a third batting point but that seemed sure to be the extent of their gains once they were all out for 325, giving them a lead of 27 and Tony Palladino 6 for 90 after taking four on the day, his dismissal of Collingwood, caught off a top-edged attempted pull, sparking a Durham collapse in which their last six wickets fell for 42.
Yet even that did not really hint at the possibility of a win, even though Derbyshire were one down in the second over when Chris Rushworth thumped one into Ben Slater's pads.
But once Paul Borrington had been caught off the glove at short leg in the 10th over, Derbyshire's inexperienced side folded alarmingly, only just scraping past the season-low 60 for which they had been dismissed at Lord's in April.
Then again, Onions was in supreme form, in the face of which few batsmen would have come out on top. Even Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with his weight of experience, had no answer, set up by a couple of short balls and then pinned in his crease, trapped leg before by a ball that almost knocked him off his feet.
"He is a class act," Derbyshire's head coach, Karl Krikken, admitted afterwards, with admiration in his voice. "If you look at the video, the ball is basically on a string and swinging all over the place."
Derbyshire's last nine wickets fell for 37 runs in the space of 20 overs, with Rushworth and the rookie Usman Arshad good value too for their successes. It took Durham fewer than eight overs to score the same number of runs to win, for the loss of Mark Stoneman, whose disappointment at being dismissed for seven came with the consolation of passing 1,000 first-class runs for the season, the fourth Durham-born player to pass that milestone, and the second in two days.