Jennings, the batsman who stayed, gives Durham hope

Durham 162 and 201 for 7 (Jennings 82*) lead Nottinghamshire 305 by 58 runs

A mere 69 balls is no evidence at all upon which to base any judgement about Durham's prospects this season. All the same, the four supremely authoritative boundaries hit by Keaton Jennings on the third morning of this game made it quite clear what a loss he would have been had he chosen, like Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, to further his career elsewhere.

Jennings' efforts may not be enough to save his side against a resurgent Nottinghamshire; Durham go into the final day with a lead of 58 and only three second-innings wickets in hand. But the accuracy of the opener's attacking shots - a straight drive, a cover drive, a back cut and a clip through midwicket - and the precision of his defensive batting seem to have grown over the winter.

Certainly his overall assurance was in clear contrast to the porous techniques of his two dismissed partners this damp Easter Sunday. Ryan Pringle was bowled by the 11th ball of the morning when he swished rather haplessly across the line to Jake Ball; nine overs later, Stuart Poynter lost his off stump to one from from Harry Gurney which swung back inside his forward push.

Four balls after Poynter's wicket fell the rain which had delayed the start of play for 85 minutes returned with renewed vigour and the dull confection of covers on the whole square - white, light green and beige - revealed the groundstaff's pessimism. The small group of spectators who had braved a poor forecast had to be content with having seen 39 runs scored and a restatement of what they surely knew: that Jennings is comfortably their best batsman.

However, the tasks facing Durham over the next two or three seasons will require more than the efforts of their finest cricketers, some of whom are likely to be playing international cricket of one sort or another in any case.

Relegation and points deductions will, in their way, make demands on the whole county, not least their highly-regarded Academy and even the North East Premier League, whose leading clubs, Chester-le-Street and South Northumberland, regularly appear in national club knockout finals.

When Paul Collingwood says that people in this area know how to fight, he is not talking about the leisure habits of well-lubricated, Novocastrian twenty-somethings strutting their stuff on The Bigg Market every Saturday night. Rather he is referring to the deep-seated inner resolve possessed by folk up here who manage to combine patriotism with a stubbornly independent spirit. Over the next five months, and for far longer, that resolve will be tested and tested again.

On the final day of this game it may have to deal with an early defeat inflicted by a Nottinghamshire team unrecognisable from the dispirited bunch dispatched to the Second Division last September.

Matches between relegated teams rarely promise to be meetings of the blissfully contented but Chris Read's men have given every indication that they will treat this season in the second tier with unfussed determination. It is good to see them back to normal, although whether they will begin their season by notching successive wins now depends largely on their ability to remove Jennings early on the last day.