Kent v Durham, Canterbury, 3rd day September 26, 2008

Thorp boosts Durham's title hopes

Jeremy James at Canterbury

Kent 225 and 159 for 5 (Thorp 5-61) trail Durham 500 for 8 (Breese 121, Di Venuto 90, Mustard 83, Smith 81) by 253 runs

Gareth Breese celebrates his hundred as Durham took charge at Canterbury © Getty Images
Durham require five wickets to defeat Kent on the final day at Canterbury - and, if Nottinghamshire fail to beat Hampshire, and assuming Somerset do not bring off an amazing victory over Lancashire, they will be first division champions. Years of frustration following them gaining first-class status in 1992 will culminate in the greatest domestic prize of all. Kent are 116 runs behind Durham, having lost their first five wickets to an inspired spell of quick and accurate fast bowling by Callum Thorp.

He and Gareth Breese excelled in particular yesterday. Thorp, who took the five Kent wickets to fall, including their three best batsmen, bowled almost as quickly as Steve Harmison, no less. Earlier in the day, Breese, whose selection and success this season have come mainly in the one day game as opposed to first-class cricket, and whose character and aptitude are regarded highly in the north east, struck his first century of the summer.

He and Phil Mustard added 148 in 42 overs, the highest partnership for Durham's seventh wicket against Kent. Breese finished unbeaten with 121 including 13 fours and a six, batting highly competently against seam and spin alike. Mustard made 83 with 12 fours and a six. This, in addition to Thorp's spell of 15 overs, was too much for a Kent side who looked with bat and ball as if their fate - relegation - was settled.

Thorp, bowling from the Pavilion End on a pitch more conducive to batting than at any previous time in the match, had Rob Key caught for a duck at mid-off as he aimed to drive his the first ball he faced through midwicket. The highly regarded but out of form Joe Denly was held in Thorp's follow through and Martin van Jaarsveld was caught at short cover from a checked drive. That was 17 for 3 and two further wickets were to fall before Justin Kemp and Ryan McLaren came together.

The two South Africans resisted with considerably more gumption than their upper-order colleagues, although by then Thorp, whose figures were 5 for 61, was nearing the end of his spell and Harmison, too, was tiring. The change bowlers provided a more straightforward line of attack. McLaren drove soundly in striking nine fours in his 68-ball innings of 45.

Callum Thorp jumps in delight at dismissing Rob Key first ball © Getty Images
Before they were joined in partnership, Geraint Jones was leg-before playing across a ball that kept low and, when Darren Stevens edged a ball to first slip that lifted and left him, Kent had slumped to 58 for 5. Kemp, who hit six fours and a six in his unbeaten 49, and McLaren put on an unbroken 101, and yet, given they are 116 runs in arrears, something extra will be required to prevent Durham winning by an innings.

To compound matters, Key was fined £1250 by the ECB for his outburst at the Riverside over "muppets" earlier this season. He was a dejected captain by the close, head in hands on the pavilion balcony following his dismissal.