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Jon Culley at Chester-le-Street
September 2, 2014
Nottinghamshire 188 and 197 for 4 (Wessels 77*, Lumb 58) required a further 178 to beat Durham 253 and 309 (Collingwood 100, Rushworth 45)
Is this the day that the balance in the title race tipped decisively in Yorkshire's favour? The instinctive answer is probably yes after Paul Collingwood's masterful hundred but the outcome at the Riverside remains in the balance, as it does at Old Trafford.
Nottinghamshire, by their own admission, are second favourites against Durham, still 178 short of a testing target of 375 with four wickets down and a longer tail than they would like in a side missing Alex Hales. Riki Wessels, not out on 77, has much responsibility on his shoulders.
On the other hand, as director of cricket Mick Newell will have reminded his players should their confidence be flagging, Nottinghamshire's last four wins have been achieved chasing runs in the fourth innings, that sequence having begun with an even taller order successfully negotiated when they knocked off 387 to beat Middlesex at Trent Bridge.
Nonetheless, it is a situation in which they would have rather not found themselves, having let Durham get away from them in an elongated morning session, when home skipper Collingwood scored his first Championship hundred since August 2012 and Durham added handsomely to their overnight score.
It was a long way from what Nottinghamshire had in mind when they started the day, when they had hoped to make short work of taking the three remaining Durham wickets and leave themselves with a target below 300.
They claimed one in the third over when Paul Coughlin, who had played very well for his 39, drove at a ball from Jake Ball that found the edge and Chris Read took the catch. But it took them two-and-a-quarter hours to snag the other two, during which time Collingwood turned his overnight 38 into a vital century.
And it was a wonderful innings, in its own way, not because it was adorned with sumptuous shots - when did he play an innings that was? - but because it was Collingwood doing what he does best. He pushed and nudged, finding the gaps and the spaces in the field; nothing flashy, just canny judgement, enabling him to gather as many handy twos and threes as he did as boundaries. Nottinghamshire's bowlers tried everything, another dozen overs from Gary Keedy included, but even the second new ball was no impediment to the Durham captain.
He looked after the tail magnificently too, although Chris Rushworth didn't need much of that, adding 45 in a stand of 84 for the ninth wicket and falling only one short of matching his highest score when, to his own chagrin, he decided to watch one through from Ball only for it to come back and clip the top of his off stump.
Peter Chase, in his first match for Durham, was another matter and if ever there was a case of a No. 11 being asked just to stand at the other end this was it. Of the remaining 39 balls in the innings, he faced only six as Collingwood judged every over almost to perfection, taking a single off the last or the next-to-last ball for six overs in a row, in which time another morale-sapping 21 runs were added to the total Nottinghamshire would need to chase.
He took the odd liberty towards the end, looking to score by whatever means, and after completing his hundred with a perfectly weighted shot into the leg side for two, he was bowled by the next delivery, trying to flick a ball from Ajmal Shahzad over the wicketkeeper's head.
Shahzad, incidentally, had been left kicking his heels in the field all morning until that point, having been allowed only six overs in the innings after conceding 18 in his first two.
That 30-minute last-wicket stand delayed the lunch interval by 25 minutes, after which Nottinghamshire could look into a near-cloudless sky and remember that 387 against Middlesex, while knowing too that they would have to exceed the ground record for a successful run chase by 36 to pull this off.
For it to happen, it probably needed at least one hundred from a top six batsmen, possibly two, yet for all Nottinghamshire possess such a wealth of batting talent in terms of centuries scored it has been a relatively lean year. Hales has three but he is away with England, Samit Patel has two but the last of those was two months ago, since when he has only twice gone past fifty in 15 attempts and 10 times been out for 21 or fewer. Wessels has one but Steven Mullaney, Michael Lumb, James Taylor and Chris Read are still waiting.
In the event, Mullaney may have been unlucky - he thought so, at any rate - waving his bat about and looking meaningfully at the inside edge after being given out leg before to Rushworth - but there were no excuses for Taylor, who left one from Paul Coughlin that came back and hit him in front; nor Patel, who gave John Hastings a fairly tame caught and bowled when he shaped to drive and instead pushed the ball back to the bowler at a nice catching height.
Lumb had some luck, with at least four of his 10 boundaries coming off the edge, but it ran out when Calum MacLeod took an absolutely stunning one-handed catch at gully to give 20-year-old Chase his maiden wicket, at which point Nottinghamshire were 121 for 4. Wessels and James Franklin added 72 to that before the close but much work remains.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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