Two games gone: Durham trail Notts by 89 points
Nottinghamshire 305 (Fletcher 92, Pattinson 59, Rushworth 5-54) and 110 for 1 (Smith 60*) beat Durham 162 (Poynter 65, Fletcher 3-23) and 250 (Jennings 102*) by nine wickets
Two comfortable victories; two 22-point returns. It is Easter Monday and the trees in Broad Wood are still to be revealed in all their fragile ambition, yet the talk is of who will be promoted with Nottinghamshire.
In private meetings and public fora Peter Moores and Chris Read will counsel against such presumption but the way in which their players eventually overpowered Durham on the fourth afternoon at the Emirates Riverside will only fuel the debate.
Already 89 points separate the two relegated sides. Nottinghamshire return home to face Sussex on Friday with 44 points in the bank: Durham play Gloucestershire in Bristol on -45 points. It may be late May before Collingwood's men clear their ECB arrears.
While there was no doubt about Nottinghamshire's superiority in this match, a fact courteously conceded by the Durham coach, Jon Lewis, neither could there be much dispute that the home side possessed the game's best batsman.
On this final morning Keaton Jennings batted through the innings and completed his first century since he made 112 on his Test debut in Mumbai last December; he did so in a fashion which proved the wisdom of his eventual England selection and the folly of omitting him from the original party to tour India.
Jennings reached his landmark off 201 balls with a single to third man off Harry Gurney but a little more impressive on Monday had been his two pulls for four and the way he dug out a fine yorker from James Pattinson. Durham's opener finished the match with an aggregate of 130 runs for once out and he could be comforted by the knowledge that it had taken the best ball of the game to dismiss him at all.
Jennings' batting is characterised more by manner than mannerism. Trademark fidgets have been eschewed in favour of a coolness of approach. It is no surprise his cricketing hero is Mike Hussey. It is curious to recall that a year and a week ago Mark Stoneman was considered a better bet to open the England innings.
For the moment, though, Jennings' priorities lie with Durham, and while he was putting on 45 for the eighth wicket with Mark Wood it was possible to believe that Nottinghamshire would be set a sterner target than the 108 they eventually required. The competence of Wood's batting was encapsulated by his stylish cut through gully off Luke Fletcher, so his annoyance was plain when, having made 21, he slapped the same bowler to midwicket where Jake Libby took the catch.
Three overs later the innings ended in slightly absurd fashion. First Graham Onions failed to get behind a straight delivery from Gurney and then Rushworth cover-drove his first ball pleasantly through the covers for a comfortable single only to run himself out when risking a second run to Jake Ball's arm. Jennings, who might have forbidden such foolishness, was left, head bowed but unbeaten, on 102.
Set to score 108 in perhaps the best batting conditions of the match - good light and a benign pitch - Nottinghamshire made light of their task. Libby and Greg Smith put on 93 for the first wicket in 24.2 overs and before long Paul Collingwood was trying more or less anything to get a breakthrough. In the 16th over of the innings Wood, that renowned equine impersonator, varied his run-up between five furlongs and a mile and a half but still bowled very quickly. Smith drove his final ball through the covers for four. Collingwood eventually put his seamer out to grass and popped Ryan Pringle on.
Rushworth, for whom no cause is hopeless, bowled around the wicket and positioned two gullies. The only uncertainty that move occasioned was in the press box, where the plural forms of "gully" were debated with Jesuitical intensity. The high-clouded afternoon drifted away pleasantly and Nottinghamshire accelerated towards their win.
Bowling when there is next door to no chance that your efforts can affect the result is cricket's middle watch, a time of lonely labour. So it was to midshipman Paul Coughlin's credit that he summoned the competitive spark necessary to pluck out Libby's off stump with a fine yorker. Precisely two overs later Smith drove Coughlin to the midwicket boundary and the match was done.
One question remains: if next week Durham played Leicestershire, the other penalised county, to what extent would the match be pointless? "Strange days have found us / Strange days have tracked us down," sang The Doors. On balance one prefers "Blaydon Races".
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications