Ferley holds his nerve
Nottinghamshire 166 for 6 (Patel 56) beat Durham 143 for 8 (Smith 41, Ferley 3-17) by 23 runs
In the end, it was a comfortable victory for Nottinghamshire, beating Durham at home by 23 runs. Following a dashing fifty from Samit Patel, Durham were still in the match until their middle-order collapsed during a crucial spell of spin bowling from Robert Ferley.
Nottinghamshire batted on winning the toss and immediately faced up to the bowling of Shaun Pollock. Pollock's first ball was uncharacteristically down the leg side, and gave away four leg-byes. His opening spell was not successful but he returned, rather surprisingly, not long afterwards and quickly took the wicket of Will Jefferson, whom he yorked for 24. He also dismissed Adam Voges for 2, finishing with 2 for 23 off his four overs - the best figures by any of Durham's bowlers. Albie Morkel and Neil Killeen also took a brace each; Durham's policy of frequent bowling changes had mixed results on this occasion.
Patel was the standout batsman for Nottinghamshire, as he has often been this season. He made a dynamic start, pulling Matt Claydon for six over midwicket, and continued to pull, drive and scuttle up and down the pitch with great energy in scoring 56 off 45 balls. He found a good partner in Chris Cairns, another recycled former Test player in this match, who hit two sixes in an over from Liam Plunkett to take him to 16 off seven balls. When he holed out at long-on for 37, he had faced just 22 balls with a four and three sixes.
Mark Ealham had an interesting innings, a six off his first ball and bowled by his second. Nottinghamshire eventually totalled 166 for 6, which all in all probably made them slight favourites.
When they took the field, they struck a major blow when Andre Adams had Michael Di Venuto caught behind off his first ball. They might have paid for two dropped catches offered by Phil Mustard - one, remarkably, by the normally infallible Chris Read - but the opener failed to take advantage, being bowled slogging across the line for 18.
The only time Durham threatened the home side's total was when Dale Benkenstein (34) and Will Smith (41) were together and attacking the bowling with vigour and skill. They added 49 for the fourth wicket before Benkenstein was caught in the deep - and that was where it all began to fall apart for Durham.
The required run rate rose steadily, the strokes became more frenetic and the wickets began to fall. Durham did have a possible trump card in Morkel, but the South African, a renowned big hitter, never got going: he managed just five runs off 12 balls as Nottinghamshire never lost their grip.
Their unexpected secret weapon was Ferley, the left-arm spinner who is not a team regular and was in fact playing his first match for a month. With simple accurate bowling he took what turned out to be the three most crucial wickets - those of Benkenstein, Smith and Morkel - in four overs for just 17 runs. His spell was the turning point of the match, and it is time he received due recognition for his greatly underestimated contribution.