Somerset denied by drama at Old Trafford
Somerset 426 and 48 for 3 drew with Durham 286 and 320
Somerset's quest for their maiden Championship title was ended in the cruellest of manners while they watched and waited on the pavilion balcony at Chester-le-Street, as Nottinghamshire pulled off their desperate quest for bonus points down at Old Trafford by posting a total of 400 before snatching three quick wickets in 4.4 overs at the end of their contest against Lancashire
Somerset had been in pole position going into the final day of the Championship season, but they were denied victory by Durham as they failed to chase down a near-impossible 181 in 17 overs. With the game finishing earlier than normal to allow the visitors to reach Newcastle Airport this evening, to head to London for the CB40 final, they left the field not knowing whether the draw was enough to secure them their first Championship title with Nottinghamshire having reached 400 for 9.
That total had been sufficient to give them their fifth batting point, and when Samit Patel clung onto an edge from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, they drew level with Somerset on 214 points, but snatched the total with seven victories to Somerset's six.
For Marcus Trescothick, the Somerset captain, it was the second agonising near-miss of the season after losing the Friends Provident t20 final to Hampshire on virtue of wickets lost. "It's gutting, with it being our first we realise how special it will be when we finally get there," he said. "To get so close - level on points - is so tough but we'll just have to wait another year now.
"It's terrible. It's something that will live with us for a long, long time. To know we were so close, touching distance to the trophy, but so far away when Nottinghamshire got that third wicket."
Somerset could have removed all the uncertainty with a victory here, but Durham showed impressive character to battle through the final day. Michael Di Venuto continued his fine innings although he edged short of slip as Charl Willoughby found some swing before bring up his third hundred of the season from 155 balls
Ben Harmison laboured to 15 off 72 balls in a third-wicket stand of 68 before was caught down the leg side off Alfonso Thomas, but it was looking increasingly likely that the results elsewhere would now be important for Somerset's changes.
Di Venuto, Durham's leading batsman in a poor run-scoring season for the defending County Championships, continued to move along untroubled while Ian Blackwell began clubbing the ball with an end-of-season freedom. However, moments before lunch Peter Trego made his latest vital mark on this match when he found Di Venuto's outside edge to rekindle Somerset's hopes of forcing the outright victory.
Then, two balls into Murali Kartik's next over, Blackwell got a big inside edge into his pad which ballooned up to short leg as Somerset left the field with a spring in their step with the prospect of a chaseable fourth-innings target.
But Phil Mustard and Dale Benkenstein formed another stubborn partnership which ate away at 15 overs before Mustard was trapped lbw by the tireless Thomas. Benkenstein, batting at No. 7 after being off the field yesterday, and Scott Borthwick dead-batted through 10 more overs.
Somerset, though, wouldn't give up and Trego squeezed a yorker through Borthwick which had just enough force to dislodge the bails and Willoughby swung one back into Liam Plunkett to trap him straight in front. The target was already getting out of hand but Chris Rushworth top-edged a pull and Benkenstein's resistance ended with an edge to slip.
Trescothick and Craig Kieswetter renewed their Twenty20 opening partnership, but 181 in 17 overs was a tough ask even by their standards of fast scoring especially as Durham could bowl almost where they liked and spread the field. Kieswetter missed a swing against Blackwell, Trescothick carved to cover and when Trego was stumped by miles they played out time. Then they were left to wait, and were ultimately denied.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo