Worcestershire save some pride
Worcestershire 356 and 410 for 7 (Davies 97, Andrew 59*, Jones 53*, Plunkett 4-132) drew with Durham 634 for 8 dec
It may have been a miserable season, but Worcestershire at least restored a little pride after earning a draw against the champions. Inspired by a superb innings from Steve Davies, they thwarted Durham's much-vaunted attack throughout the final day to suggest grounds for at least a little optimism for the future.
The result makes little difference to the final standings, however. Durham still finish top with a record winning-margin, while Worcestershire are still relegated.
Yet Worcestershire will take heart from the performance. They showed admirable fighting spirit on the final day, with several of their younger players - particularly Gareth Andrew and Richard Jones - demonstrating some character in preventing what at times appeared certain defeat.
Davies' performance will provoke mixed feelings. While the club will delight in the success of a home-grown player, they are bitterly disappointed at his departure and this innings - his final first-class innings for Worcestershire before joining Surrey - simply underlined the enormous ability that will now be of service to other people.
Davies produced a dazzling array of strokes, including three sixes and 16 fours, in his 75-ball innings. He tore into a plain-looking Ian Blackwell, skipping down the pitch and driving him for a series of boundaries, as well as pulling Mitchell Claydon for six. At one point, Davies took 14 off Blackwell in four deliveries as he followed up two flowing drives with a slog-sweep for six.
He survived two chances: first on 74 when Phil Mustard missed a simple stumping off Blackwell; and another on 86 when Dale Benkenstein was unable to cling on to a tough chance off the same bowler and could only palm the ball over the boundary for six.
Though he fell just short of his third championship century of the season, Andrew and Jones then posted an unbroken eighth-wicket partnership of 119 in 26 overs to make the match safe. Andrew, recording his second half-century of the game, was efficient off his legs and cut well, but it was Jones' driving - and his pulled six off Liam Plunkett - that really impressed. This was the first half-century of his first-class career, but there's no reason he should not make plenty more.
Earlier Daryl Mitchell paid the price for a lack of footwork and edged to the keeper, Moeen Ali failed to capitalise on two dropped chances and was beaten by an in swinger before Vikram Solanki chopped-on yet again. Alexei Kervezee again showed his class with a pleasing innings before nibbling at one outside off stump, while Dave Wheeldon top-edged a sweep. Davies' entertaining innings ended when he attempted to turn a ball into the leg side but looped a leading edge to point.
With Blackwell and Plunkett - who finished on 49 Championship wickets in the season - unable to make the breakthrough, however, Worcestershire built enough of a lead that the two sides agreed to an early finish.
It might be wrong to read too much into this result, however. The end of season table does not lie and Worcestershire - who finished a staggering 146 points behind Durham - would be wise not to delude themselves that this performance shows that they have turned a corner. Whichever way you look at it, this has been a dreadful season. It is the first time they have failed to win a first-class game in a season since 1928, while the futures of Stephen Moore and Kabir Ali remain uncertain.
This was a strangely lacklustre performance from Durham. Struggling to rouse themselves for this game, they lacked intensity and appeared to be suffering some hangover from their celebrations.
They also missed Steve Harmison. A swollen knee prevented him from bowling throughout the Worcestershire second innings, though he oddly remained on the field all day, hobbling around in discomfort and putting down a chance in the gully.
Durham will not linger long over this result, however. With a seemingly endless supply of fast bowlers, an astutely signed all-rounder in the shape of Blackwell, and a batting order that combines flair and depth, they have proved to be head and shoulders above their opposition this season and richly deserve their rewards.
George Dobell is managing director of Spin Magazine