Durham 165 (Evison 5-21, Broad 3-36) and 188 for 4 drew with Nottinghamshire 328 (Patterson-White 73, Slater 60, Clarke 48, Rushworth 4-75, Raine 3-63) and 217 (Hameed 58, Borthwick 4-32)

County cricket felt like a game going through the motions at Chester-le-Street. Not just because the contest was dead, but also because of the creeping, low-level sense of foreboding that, behind the scenes, the season itself was in danger of crumbling.

Is this what the beginning of the end of county cricket will look like?

Confidential soundings will be taken from chief executives this week over whether the Royal London Cup can logistically be staged as the competition is drained by international cricket, the inaugural season of the Hundred - a tournament upon which several ECB high-fliers have pinned their reputation - and the continuing curse of Covid, as the country approaches "Freedom Day" amid rising cases and the ping of mobile phones instructing hundreds of thousands (or at least those who haven't already deleted the App) to go into isolation.

The first phase of the Championship has ended tonight with the final stages due to begin again on August 30. The group stage of the T20 Blast also comes to an end on Saturday (although Derbyshire's campaign has already run out of players), with the quarter-finals scheduled for August 23 onwards.

The doubts surround the Royal London Cup. The 50-over tournament, already shorn by design of the top 30% of professional cricketers, is meant to fill the gap for the rest. Not providing a purportedly valid county competition for a month in the middle of summer for core cricket supporters, and leaving the majority of players inactive in the process, would be unconscionable.

The ECB's masterplan asserted that county cricket could have it all ways - take the promised windfall from the Hundred and still stage a legitimate competition to satisfy traditional county supporters. But counties are struggling with ravaged squads and mounting debts, and in some quarters faith is understandably wavering that they can stage worthwhile matches of sufficient quality, or even stage matches at all.

And somewhere in these discussions will be the question of what will happen if one of the squads in the Hundred has to isolate? There is only one place where a Hundred side could draw fresh resources - and that would be desperately to scour the fast-emptying shelves of the county cricket supermarket, a supermarket with a deeply flawed production line but the only production line nevertheless.

All this bobbled around the surface, like pollution on a calm sea, as Durham's Championship encounter with Nottinghamshire hit stalemate, Durham sidling to 188 for 4, having been set 381 to win in 71 overs. Durham could have joined Notts in Division One of the next stage of the LV= Championship with victory, if Warwickshire had lost at Worcestershire, but there never looked to be the slightest possibility of that. They did little more than keep up appearances before gladly shaking hands on a draw at five o'clock. Durham, as a result, are heading into Division Two.

Notts blocked out the first hour, largely in the shape of Joey Evison, whose five wickets had won them promotion the previous day and who now had a more humdrum job to do - 13 from 45 balls. With the game safe, they indulged in some late-order hitting, with Scott Borthwick's legspin the chief recipient as he turned in season's best figures of 4 for 32.

Ankle-high dismissals for Cameron Bancroft and David Bedingham were reminders that a sedate final-day surface would have one or two treacherous moments. The game was played out in the semi-conscious, virtually unwatchable, way that county cricket resorts to when a game goes awry. "Cricket is a situation game - when the situation is dead, the game is dead," said the England allrounder, Trevor Bailey, more than half-a-century ago and it remains as true as ever.

With Durham 193 behind at the start of the final hour, nobody much minded when a draw was accepted. Losing an hour was of no consequence. It was the outcome of the next month that mattered.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps