Following Durham's fortunes from Upton Park

Oliver Hannon-Dalby ended Paul Collingwood's useful innings Getty Images

The three blocks of flats, one picked out with red trim, one with blue and one with green stand like stumps beyond the stand on the far side of the ground. I tried to find an omen in that, some remote symbolism to restore my flagging hopes, but all I could think was that there were no bails. What did that mean? Did that mean that the batsmen were doomed, or did it mean they couldn't be out? But the flats were the only sign of cricket, so I gazed at them, pale brown against a filthy sky. There may be worse places to endure your side's run chase in a Lord's final than the press box at Upton Park, but there are few so prosaic.

Part of the problem was that it was all so unexpected. For a long time this looked like being a grim season for Durham. I kept telling myself that they weren't playing badly but kept being unfortunate and were drawing too many games as a result, but anybody who has ever cared about a lower-half-of-the-table football team knows that's as sure a sign of imminent relegation as any.

In retrospect, the season turned on the desperately tight Championship defeat to Lancashire in August, when Durham almost defended a fourth-innings target of 107, reducing Lancashire first to 36 for 5 and then, after they had recovered to 79 for 5, taking a further four wickets for 11 runs. In the end, Tom Smith and Simon Kerrigan saw Lancashire home, but in that fightback was forged a mighty spirit. In the month that followed, they won three straight Championship matches to move clear of relegation, and three straight 50-over games to win the Royal London Cup.

Durham's form in the one-day competition had been indifferent, and for a time it seemed they would be edged out as Somerset came frighteningly close to beating Surrey, thanks in no small part to the enormous variety of slower wides Jade Dernbach is capable of bowling.

The quarter-final against Yorkshire, the first match after the Old Trafford near-miss, similarly seemed to just happen. As Mark Stoneman hit a ton, Durham were on top, then collapsed from 178 for 3 to 237 all out, only for Yorkshire to suffer an even more pitiful disintegration, two wickets in three balls from Chris Rushworth prompting them to fall from 133 for 2 to 170 for 8. Between one check of the score and the next they went from seemingly having no chance to having won. Ben Stokes then won the semi-final almost single-handed, clumping 164 off 113 balls to beat Nottinghamshire.

Because it was so unexpected, it had never occurred to me to take the day of the final off. So I was booked in to cover West Ham's Premier League game against Liverpool. By the time I left the flat, the game seemed as good as won, Durham having bowled out Warwickshire for 165.

But wickets fell consistently as I travelled east across London. By the time I got to Upton Park, Durham were 86 for 5. On Twitter and on the Northern Echo's live blog, the tension was palpable. I was reminded of the semi-final when Durham had won the Friends Provident seven years earlier, when they collapsed to 38 for 7 in chasing down Essex's total of 71 before Liam Plunkett steadied the nerves with a couple of meaty boundaries.

So I sat in the press room, gnawing at the overcooked lasagne, staring at ESPNcricinfo's live updates as everybody else gazed at the football coverage on the television. Following cricket in a football press box is a strange experience: if it's an international, you can pretty much guarantee half the other journalists will either be following it themselves or at least care what's going on. If it's a county game, unless there's a Yorkshire cabal, nobody else cares. There was a partnership of 31, then Paul Collingwood was out. Poor Colly, features hewn by the North Sea wind, the man you'd have backed above all others when the pressure was on. Another 13 runs eked out, then Gordon Muchall went.

In the clammy heat, I was struggling to cope. I decided to go up to the press box for some air and some solitude. By the time I got to the top of the stairs - it's an odd feature of West Ham that they give you the saltiest food in the Premier League and have the stiffest climb to the press box in the Premier League; it's like they are trying to give journalists a heart attack - I could barely breathe. I staggered to my seat, but for some reason, up there I couldn't connect to the wifi. I fiddled about with my phone and eventually found that Stokes and Gareth Breese, that most diligent and underrated of players, had coaxed Durham to within 7 of victory. But then I lost connection again.

I couldn't honestly believe that Durham could lose it from there, but I needed to be sure. Thankfully the journalist next to me had managed to get connected to the wifi. I asked him to check and, a little over five minutes before kickoff he confirmed the news. Durham had won. I wanted to punch the air or do a little jig, but quite apart from the impossibility of doing that in the cramped confines of Upton Park, I'd have felt a little foolish. After all, there were 30-odd thousand people there, all gathered to watch a sporting event; why would any of the others care about another sporting event happening 12 miles to the west? The worst thing was, I couldn't even get on Twitter to celebrate virtually. Across the top of the East Stand, the three stumps looked on impassive.