Durham v Nottinghamshire, Chester-le-Street, 3rd day September 11, 2009

Durham secure the Championship

John Ward at Chester-le-Street

Nottinghamshire 384 (Read 65, Hales 62, Pattinson 59, Brown 59, Plunkett 6-85) and 52 for 2 (Hales 33*, Pattinson 4*) trail Durham 648 for 5 dec (Di Venuto 219, Chanderpaul 109*, Coetzer 107, Benkenstein 105) by 212 runs

At 2.15 p.m., Ali Brown pushed outside the off stump to a delivery from Mark Davies, perhaps trying to nudge it down to third man, but instead edged a straight-forward catch to the wicketkeeper Phil Mustard. The sixth Nottinghamshire wicket had fallen, and the inevitable had finally taken place. Durham had taken the second bowling bonus point which retained for them the County Championship title, in one of the most one-sided tournaments for several years, although they will have to wait until the final day to be officially crowned.

The celebrations were quite muted, though, as perhaps even for several matches now it has not been a case of 'if' but 'when'. And, had it not been for the final seal on their overall supremacy, Durham would have found this a rather frustrating day. Nottinghamshire did not give up easily, and could claim in one sense to have made Durham fight until they dropped - and drop they did, as uncharacteristically several chances went down in the field. But Durham still managed to enforce the follow-on, and will expect to record their eighth victory of the season tomorrow.

Nottinghamshire began the day with their score of 65 for 2, facing a daunting task of needing 499 even to save the follow-on. There was a large, expectant but far from noisy crowd numbered at 4270, admitted free of charge by the local executive. Alex Hales edged the first ball of the day, from Steve Harmison, low into the slips, where the third member dived but was unable to hold on to the chance.

Of all the Durham players, perhaps Harmison had the most reason to feel frustrated on a day in which he lost his ECB central contract. He bowled magnificently at times, but conceded over 100 runs without taking a wicket, and having several possible catches dropped off his bowling. He again targeted Samit Patel, pulling out all the stops to give him a torrid time. Patel quickly pulled him for a superb four and occasionally hit a defiant boundary through the covers, but most of the time he was defending for his life, again standing up well to the express pace. Hales was not always in line, often moving far across his stumps against Harmison, but this was probably more to guard against edges into the slips than trepidation, after he survived another difficult chance there 25 minutes after his first.

Hales reached his fifty off 108 balls; he enjoyed good luck and was not always convincing, by any means, but he hung in there when it was needed. Patel was first to go; on 38 he survived a simple chance to square leg off Liam Plunkett, and at 44 sliced the ball into the gully, where it was held. Bilal Shafayat had a brief innings of incident: he edged his first ball from Plunkett through the slips for four, almost a catch, and was trapped lbw by the second, which moved in on him. When the same bowler bowled Hales for 62 with a ball that kept a little low, five wickets were down for 152 and Durham were close to that final decisive point.

It took another 95 runs to clinch it, though, as Brown and Chris Read, who had dislocated a finger on the first day, put on a determined stand, weathering another fierce burst from the luckless Harmison. But it was just a matter of patience, and in mid-afternoon Davies did the job in removing Brown for 59. Read shortly afterwards reached his fifty and then burst into a flurry of handsome strokes. But he was burning his candle at both ends, and was soon extinguished as he edged an attempted drive to first slip for 65 off 91 balls, destined to be his team's top score. It could be noted, though, that he too survived a chance, to the keeper when on 7.

Nottinghamshire were not done yet, though. Mark Ealham survived chances on 4 and 8, and received unexpected support from Darren Pattinson at No. 10. Pattinson played a traditional tail-ender's innings, causing the fielding side to tear their hair out as he slogged, swatted and sliced his way to his maiden first-class fifty, which he reached with a typical leg-side slog for four off Davies. The pair put on 113 together in entertaining fashion before Ealham fell for 49, edging an intended drive to slip. Pattinson was last out for 59, backing away, slashing and edging; he knew he could not rely on much support from a fit Charlie Shreck, never mind an injured one.

The total was a creditable 384, but Nottinghamshire were still 264 behind and were forced to follow on. The wickets were shared by the persistent seamers Davies and Plunkett, the latter taking six, a great encouragement to a former Test player working his way back to form. Perhaps understandably, though, he seemed to be running on empty when asked to bowl the first over in the follow-on, although he did have a hand in the first wicket, taking a catch in the gully off Mitchell Claydon to remove Scott Newman for 9.

Davies took another wicket, having Mark Wagh caught at the wicket for 6, so Durham finished the day on a positive note and are on course to crown their title with a victory.