Ben Harmison leaves Essex rock-bottom
Durham 177 and 234 for 6 drew with Essex 268 and 367
Ben Harmison just failed to record what would have been only his second Championship century as Durham settled for a draw against Essex at Chelmsford. He followed up his 66 in the first innings with 96 as the visitors finished on 234 for 6 after resuming the final day in pursuit of a victory target of 459.
It was one they never attempted and for quite a while defeat stared them in the face. From an overnight 31 for 1, they lost another three wickets before the total advanced into three figures, two of them through gross errors of judgment, as Dale Benkenstein and Michael Di Venuto were both bowled shouldering arms.
Benkenstein committed his error against off-spinner Tom Westley while Di Venuto gifted his wicket to paceman Chris Wright after scoring 58, which included eight boundaries. When Ian Blackwell became an lbw victim of Westley with the total on 43, Essex looked firm favourites to claim only their third County Championship win of the season in their last game before dropping into the second division.
But Harmison, with fine support from Phil Mustard, were to deny them with a stand of 91 in 38 overs before both teams called it a day. Harmison's first fifty took him 142 deliveries but he was able to accelerate late on as Alastair Cook, with his gentle off-spin, and Westley concentrated mainly on getting through their overs as quickly as possible to ensure Essex were not penalised for a slow over-rate.
But Harmison's hopes of adding to the century he took off the Warwickshire attack three years ago ended when Cook tossed the ball up and he despatched it into the hands of Tony Palladino at long-on. His 96, spanning 197 deliveries, contained 14 fours, and his dismissal resulted in the players shaking hands to signal the end of the game.
It was somewhat surprising as an hour still remained, but Essex were no doubt more concerned about setting off to Taunton as quickly as possible for tomorrow's Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-final against Somerset. Mustard's vigil brought him 24 from 103 deliveries as Durham emerged with six points.
Essex picked up eight points but they were not enough to prevent them finishing bottom of the table.