Durham v Notts, Specsavers Championship Div Two, Chester-le-Street, 4th day April 17, 2017

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

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County Championship Round-up: Warwickshire's woes

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rokerb4310721 on April 18, 2017, 19:04 GMT

    If any further demonstration of high handedness were needed check out Captain Costcutter's response from the ECB bunker to a petition raised by genuine Durham supporters & cricket fans. Breathtaking arrogance.

  • rokerb4310721 on April 18, 2017, 16:17 GMT

    Alfers - I can assure you as a Durham member that the outrage is not fake. It has taken the ECB six months to present its case in the form of newspeak from Gordon Hollins relating to the terms of the levels of sanction applied to Durham and who said what to whom when - and even then it's still not clear. In fact it's even less clear now following this than it ever was.

    Echoing earlier posts it is the unaccountability of the ECB that is most troubling. This doesn't just extend to the vindictive treatment of a club which provides players for the national team (without whom there is in effect no ECB) on a regular basis, but extends to other initiatives such as railroading a new T20 competition, centralisation of academies, altering the CC schedule to suit etc.

  • clarke6485949 on April 18, 2017, 14:31 GMT

    Alfers post is so factually incorrect I find it necessary to respond. Durham weren't bankrupt as they had a buyer whom ECB decreed not fit and proper as opposed to Stanford who they regarded as fit and proper. Durham assumed that any sanction imposed would be within the existing rules, ECB went outside their own rule book in deciding the sanction. Other counties do not rely on their own resources- Many have debts far greater than Durham's and exist because of the benevolence of personal benefactors or their local councils. At the end of the season Durham won't be able to compete on equal terms as they will still be working under a salary cap lower than all other counties.

  • kenned2901317 on April 18, 2017, 14:12 GMT

    Alfers, who are these counties who ''rely on their own resources''? Yorkshire and Hants are bankrolled by sleazy ECB/ECB-affiliated fatcats Messrs. Graves and Bransgrove respectively - the latter, a dodgy pharmaceutical tycoon! Glamorgan and Warwickshire are bankrolled by local councils. Durham actually have - had - far less debt than the aforementioned. All eighteen first-class counties receive approx. 2 million per year in ECB subsidies. There is no such thing as a county ''relying on its own resources''. Even Middx and Surrey, the two richest counties, rely on their annual stipulation of England test matches.

  • andrew2711976 on April 18, 2017, 12:46 GMT

    Without the ECB, Durham would be bankrupt. They were fully aware that the bail out would have penalties attached in order to ensure that the other counties, who continue to rely on their own resources, were treated fairly. At the end of this season, Durham can challenge for promotion on the same terms as everyone else. The trade off was quite straightforward but has been lost amidst all the fake outrage.

  • Guy on April 18, 2017, 11:47 GMT

    Agree it is an ECB stitch up but , everything now is geared towards creating an elite. As a Northamptonshire fan (who I believe will be Nottinghamshire's main rivals this year) the fact that we have to play them twice whilst others do not does seem a little contrived maybe......

  • devspec on April 18, 2017, 9:57 GMT

    Excellent summary from Jackiethepen: nail on the head! The arrogance and remoteness of unaccountable power, as embodied by the ECB, has never been more vividly illustrated. Isn't it overdue that ordinary spectators and followers should have a say in electing cricket's leaders, rather than it being forever messed around by a narrow and self-interested clique of the over-privileged? The ruthless attack on Durham should incense anyone who admires the club's success in widening cricket's appeal. The dignity and stoicism of the club and its supporters in the face of this injustice is remarkable, but the wider cricketing public should be furious - and should get organised to take on the elites who have colonised the game.

  • Jackie on April 18, 2017, 8:32 GMT

    Nobody can be in any doubt that the ECB's remorseless targeting and punishing of Durham is meant to keep them in the Second Division. They were upstarts and have been duly punished when other clubs continue to acquire even more debt and throw money at every problem they have. This chapter of English cricket history is likely to be its most shameful when dubious monetary values have been coupled with a blimpish sense of hierarchy and self entitlement. The impact of "false news" and smearing by rumour has entered cricket in order to manipulate the outcome. Presumably with the notion that the end (Franchise cricket and loads of money for some) justifies the means. Even then we are told there will be no likely returns in the first season or two. What has been sacrificed is the notion of fair play in cricket. Everyone knows Durham has not been treated fairly. But that doesn't weigh enough in the minds of the rest. Rigging the system is exactly the right description.

  • kenned2901317 on April 17, 2017, 19:24 GMT

    You certainly do not need to be a Durham supporter to be aghast at the penalty considering it not only retroactively rigged season 2016, but also rigs 2017 in advance: there is now a team who should be in division two who are present in division one and vice versa, and there is now a team, that same team who should be in one, who effectively are competing under a gigantic handicap. The whole basic premise of sport should be people competing on something like a level playing field!! You might also cite the Leics thing, punishing the team for the player seems harsh, also. Where will it end? Perhaps soon we will see every county began on ECB determined minus points and the championship will simply become a ''race to 0''?

  • Mark on April 17, 2017, 18:39 GMT

    One game gone from 14 and Durham's Championship season is effectively over. In the remaining 13 games they would have to make up an average of 7 points per game to overhaul Nottinghamshire. That sanction, combined with a schedule that allows the fixture computer to gives some sides a much harder schedule than others, has made a farce of Division 2. Admittedly Durham needed to win probably 3 of their first 4 games to set up a serious tilt at promotion but, to leave their season all but over after just one game gives them little motivation take risks with players or setting up results.

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