Durham v Nottinghmshire, Chester-le-Street, 1st day

Durham blitz brings title a step closer

George Dobell at Chester-le-Street

September 17, 2013

Comments: 7 | Text size: A | A

Durham 207 for 8 (Mustard 77, Collingwood 53*, Adams 4-49) lead Nottinghamshire 78 (Harrison 3-4, Rushworth 3-24, Onions 3-30) by 129 runs
Scorecard


Paul Franks was Nottinghamshire's last man out, Durham v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, Division One, Chester-le-Street, 1st day, September 17, 2013
Paul Franks trudges off after becoming the last man out for Notts © Getty Images
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It was surely fitting that Paul Collingwood should steer Durham away from trouble in their crucial match against Nottinghamshire.

When Collingwood was appointed captain of Durham's Championship side in July 2012, the team were bottom of Division One and without a victory that season.

But, little over a year later, Collingwod has helped transform them and, as captain, led them to 13 wins in 20 games. If they win this match, they will have won a club record five Championship matches in succession and, more importantly, a third title in six years. Coming into this game requiring a maximum of 21 more points, they now require a further 17, in the unlikely event that Yorkshire should take full points from their final two games. For Collingwood, who earlier in his career was known as a reluctant captain, it is a remarkable achievement.

It is even more remarkable bearing in mind the obstacles he has faced. Coming into this season, Durham had the disadvantage of a 2.5 point penalty for breaching the salary cap last year and financial constraints that prohibited the signing of an overseas player. Injury then robbed them of the services of senior batsman Dale Benkenstein, while the head coach, Geoff Cook, suffered a heart attack in June that cast a cloud over the club for several weeks. Thankfully, Cook is recovering well. England calls, Lions calls and injuries have all added to the burden.

The obstacle on this occasion was a tricky pitch. Until Collingwood came to the crease, 15 wickets had fallen within the first 48 overs of the day and there was an outside chance that Nottinghamshire, despite having succumbed to their lowest score since 2010, might take a first innings lead. The highest stand of the game had been only 20 and no individual player had surpassed 17. Andre Adams, who claimed 4 for 27 in an excellent 13-over opening spell, was proving as demanding as ever.

But first with Scott Borthwick and then with Phil Mustard, his predecessor as captain, Collingwood put the quality of this pitch into perspective. In a style that would be familiar to those who witnessed his many rearguard innings for England, Collingwood refused to be drawn into pushing at anything wide and, in allowing the ball to come to him, avoided the hard-handed prods that undid so many others.

While others drove, he deflected; while others chased, he nudged; while others perished, he was patient. It is no coincidence that he survives into day two having batted longer than anyone else.

Perhaps just as importantly, Collingwood's partnership with Mustard - 121 runs in 35 overs - will have alleviated Durham's concerns about the possibility of incurring a points penalty for preparing a poor pitch. While Jack Birkenshaw, the ECB's Pitch Liaison Officer, will return to watch the second day's play before reaching a verdict on this surface, there is no chance whatsoever that the maximum sanction of 24 points will be imposed. Even the lesser sanction, eight points, is highly unlikely.

While it is true that the pitch offered assistance off the seam, to define it as "excessive" - the criteria by which it could incur a penalty - would be harsh. In truth, some excessively poor batting and some admirable bowling were the more relevant ingredients in a day that, in all, saw 18 wickets fall. The early start and autumnal weather might also be relevant and it is worth noting that a similar Durham attacked bowled out Derbyshire for only 63 on Saturday. In such conditions, they pose a desperately tough challenge.

Collingwood defends pitch

  • Paul Collingwood dismissed any suggestion Durham should be penalised for preparing a sub-standard pitch despite seeing 18 wickets fall on the first day of the Championship match against Nottinghamshire. Instead Collingwood credited some "exceptional" seam bowling and some "disappointing" batting for the low scores.
  • "To bowl a side out for 78 on any wicket is an exceptional effort," Collingwood said. "The pitch actually looked one of the flatter ones we have had here this season, but it did just enough. There was none of the extravagant movement you see here sometimes. We just have an exceptional bowling attack - Graham Onions' averages are ridiculous over the last couple of years - and there was some disappointing strokeplay. I don't think you can grumble about the pitch."

Perhaps Nottinghamshire's decision to bat first was questionable. Given the reputation of this surface as something approaching a seam bowler's paradise, choosing to bat at 10.15am in mid-September was something of a surprise. To be fair though, Durham have batted first in every Championship game on the ground this season whether they have won the toss or not, so perhaps Nottinghamshire's attempt to adopt a similar method was not so far wide of the mark as the scoreline suggests. Collingwood later confirmed that Durham, too, would have chosen to bat first.

The execution of the decision was far more at fault. Faced with some probing bowling from the excellent pairing of Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth, who have 63 and 51 wickets respectively this season, Nottinghamshire produced a feeble performance. Some batsmen - such as Samit Patel and David Hussey - pushed too hard at the ball, some - such as Riki Wessels - played around the ball, some - such as Chris Read or Adams - missed slogs and some - James Taylor - did not play a stroke at all.

It was a wretched display of batting and resulted in Nottinghamshire being bowled out 20 minutes before lunch for their second-lowest total this century (following the 59 they made against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge in 2010) and their lowest ever against Durham. James Whitaker, one of the England selectors, can only have left more impressed with Onions, though whether he feels performances in such conditions are relevant to the challenges to come in Australia is debatable.

On the bright side, it should enable Nottinghamshire to leave in good time for the YB40 final against Glamorgan at Lord's on Saturday. The start times on each day of this game have been brought forward to 10.15am to enable Notts to catch an 8pm flight booked for Friday. There seems little chance of them missing it and a contingency plan has been put in place to allow them to fly on Thursday. Graeme Swann, who will feature in the side on Saturday, was in Durham to bowl in the nets with the white ball.

One man travelling in the other direction - a little further, actually - was Ben Stokes. The allrounder, who had been on duty with England, underwent a scan on his hamstring at 8am on Tuesday morning and, after receiving an all clear, embarked on a 313-mile drive from Southampton to Durham, where he replaced Usman Arshad in the side. Within minutes he was batting and, attempting a firm drive at a wide ball, was caught at third slip without scoring.

Fortunately for Durham, they were rescued by Collingwood and Mustard. While Collingwood, save one lofted on drive and a powerful pull, played few memorable strokes, Mustard accelerated after a slow start and, as Notts' bowlers became more tired and frustrated, reeled off a succession of firm drives. His individual score was only one fewer than Notts managed in total.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 on (September 18, 2013, 9:19 GMT)

Echo all the comments and esp re the pitch. It's the same for both sides and even if bowling 1st gives the side a huge advantage , the toss is the same for both sides

Posted by   on (September 18, 2013, 8:28 GMT)

Well done to Durham. I am a Warwickshire member and I said to a few others last season that it was a good job Durham didn't start the season as they finished it.Why so many wrote them off before the season is beyond me. They will be worthy champions and their win ratio is something you cannot argue with. I cannot believe we beat them so convincingly at the start of the season. You can talk all you like about pitches but the games at Durham produce interesting cricket unlike the bland Edgbaston pitches we seem to get. One thing does seem to puzzle me about a place so far up in the north - Why the hell do you not get more rain.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (September 18, 2013, 7:03 GMT)

Maximum respect to Durham. No one seemed to notice that they were probably the side with the best form in the entire Championship at the end of last season. For me it was a no-brainer that they would be strong again this season. Captain Colly seems to have infused the side with an iron will and the fighting spirit that we have associated with Durham for some years now.

As for Nottinghamshire, they are going to escape because Surrey and Derbyshire have been so dreadful, but in not winning in the Championship since May they seem to be setting themselves up for a likely relegation next year unless they can turn things around. They have been a massive disappointment this year.

Posted by Jezinho on (September 18, 2013, 5:53 GMT)

What does Graham Onions have to do to get a game for England? Glenn McGrath had a moderately successful career out of bowling line and length which is pretty much the Onions mantra. He perhaps doesn't offer the batting option that Bresnan does but then as England's lower order already has Broad and Swann, neither of whom are mugs with the bat then he presents a good option.

Posted by Geordie613 on (September 17, 2013, 21:36 GMT)

cloudmess , Don't think he could've been test captain. He was always just about in the test side, never quite a certainty, and wouldn't have been chosen as a captain alone, like Mike Brearly arguably was.

Posted by   on (September 17, 2013, 19:28 GMT)

You can't dock Durham points for a dodgy pitch when you look at the weather conditions prevailing around the country today. Blame the idiotic scheduling applied by the ECB, not the ground staff.

Posted by cloudmess on (September 17, 2013, 19:16 GMT)

I seem to remember Collingwood had a pretty good record as England's ODI captain, winning some decent series (including one in Sri Lanka). And obviously his T20 captaincy wasn't too shabby either... now he has helped transform a struggling Durham side. Could he possibly have been the great England test captain who got away?

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