Ian Blackwell propels Durham to victory
Durham 384 and 262 for 5 beat Hampshire 345 and 298
Ian Blackwell propelled champions Durham to a thrilling five-wicket win against Hampshire in the County Championship match at Chester-le-Street. While opener Kyle Coetzer anchored their pursuit of 260 in 57 overs, continuing his excellent start with a polished 72, Blackwell turned what threatened to be a scramble into a stroll.
Durham needed 139 in 27 overs when the former Somerset all-rounder went in, but once he had stroked 20 off his first six balls the pressure was off. James Tomlinson had been the only real threat for Hampshire, taking two wickets for 20 runs in two excellent five-over spells. But when Nic Pothas gambled by replacing him with teenage left-arm spinner Danny Briggs his second ball was smashed for a huge straight six by Blackwell.
Following his 83 in the first innings, Blackwell also cleared the rope off Sean Ervine on the way to a 36-ball half-century. The target was 44 off 10 overs when he departed for 62, chipping Briggs to midwicket, leaving young Ben Stokes and Phil Mustard to secure victory with 23 balls to spare. Stokes was on 27 and Mustard reached 32 by finishing the match with a six over midwicket off Briggs.
Blackwell could have been out for 47 when a leading edge off Briggs lobbed over the bowler and Ervine, running round from extra cover, failed to hang on to a diving effort. Two balls after that Coetzer got out when 72 were needed off 16 overs, lifting Briggs to deep midwicket. But the three powerful left-handers in Durham's middle order ensured that the runs came easily in the end.
The target was a little stiffer than they would have wanted, but it might soon have been beyond them had Callum Thorp not held a superb catch at long on to end Hampshire's last-wicket stand of 30. After trailing by 39 in the first innings, the visitors led by 230 with one wicket standing at lunch, but Ervine did an excellent job of keeping the strike until he went for a big hit off Stokes in the sixth over after the break.
It was very firmly struck, but Thorp reached high to his left to hold the catch and Ervine was out for 46 with the total on 298. Durham took 48 minutes to make the breakthrough in the morning and then it came courtesy of a silly run by Pothas. Coetzer took advantage with a slick piece of fielding at cover to run out nightwatchman Tomlinson.
When Ervine started going for his shots it seemed Hampshire were thinking about accelerating towards a declaration. He twice drove the out-of-sorts Thorp through extra cover for four then lifted Mark Davies over midwicket for six. But after putting on 45 in eight overs he lost Pothas when the acting captain gloved a leg-side catch to Mustard off Liam Plunkett to depart for 76.
After that the visitors' best hope was a draw, although Durham lost Michael Di Venuto for 18 with the score on 28 in the eighth over, when he followed an away swinger from Tomlinson and edged to first slip.
Skipper Will Smith timed the ball better than in previous innings this season and contributed 20 to a stand of 50 with Coetzer before being caught off a top-edged sweep off Briggs. Dale Benkenstein fell for 10 when he was adjudged lbw to a full-length swinger from Tomlinson. But for the second time in the match Blackwell rapidly took it away from Hampshire.