Character the key on a thrilling day

The “C” word was being used liberally at Chester-le-Street last night. You can say what you like about Durham but they do not lack character

Chris Rushworth in action for Durham
Chris Rushworth in action for Durham

The “C” word was being used liberally at Chester-le-Street last night. You can say what you like about Durham but they do not lack character.

Halfway into the Championship season, they have now won half of their eight matches, putting them firmly in title contention when the race resumes after the Twenty20 Cup hiatus.

Almost all those matches have been nailbiters – this ground seems to produce nothing else.

When Ateeq Javid and Jeetan Patel put on 86 for the eighth wicket, it looked like Durham had let victory slip – but they simply refused to.

Leading the way was a tired Graham Onions who has not met his very high standards this week – five final-day no-balls and a wide showed that – yet still won the game with 5-83, taking him to 37 wickets for the season in this competition.

He reflected: “It’s probably more of a mental challenge than physical.

“Last week took a lot out of the guys and from my point of view this week has been a bit of a struggle.

“I probably didn’t bowl as well as I would have liked but I put that down to the amount of cricket we’ve played in the last two months.

“The way Stokesey (Ben Stokes) and Rushy (Chris Rushworth) bowled, the way they all put their hands up was special.

“To have the characters we have in the dressing room, as well as those who aren’t playing, we have a great chance of keeping our season going.

“The guys have put so much hard work in to win a few games. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I enjoy it when Colly (captain Paul Collingwood) throws the ball to me in tough situations.”

If Onions had the best statistics, Stokes continued to be the most successful at finding the filled-in hole on the pitch which made the ball jump at the batsmen.

Ian Westwood and Ateeq Javid were fortunate to avoid vicious lifters, although the former was caught behind off Mark Wood without adding to his score.

Two beautiful yorkers with a hint of reverse swing to remove the dangerous-looking Tim Ambrose and Rikki Clarke extended his spell into a marathon 14 overs.

When he came back it was surprisingly from the other, Lumley, end but Stokes has a habit of finishing innings and a full straight ball to No.11 Boyd Rankin, who had foolishly taken the strike, did so with just 11 needed for an away win. The ball Onions swung in past the drive of Will Porterfield from around the wicket was an absolute beauty and the second of three early wickets to set the game up.

However, as so often this season, batting became easier on the third day and runs came more freely lower down the order.

Ambrose added 53 with Javid, who then combined with Patel to take Warwickshire to the brink until Onions removed both.

There were 55 overs gone and only 39 runs needed before Scott Borthwick received the ball.

Will Smith got it first, and claimed the important wicket of Keith Barker, but the 13 Patel hit off the first over after tea suggested Collingwood was pushing his luck persevering with the occasional off-spinner.

Chris Rushworth was also conspicuous by his absence as the game started to get twitchy.

Borthwick created a chance and Rushworth downed it, misjudging a skier as he turned this way and that at mid-on. Patel had 44 and his team were just 33 adrift.

However, Borthwick took an excellent diving slip catch to remove Javid and Patel quickly followed, caught at wide long-on by Keaton Jennings trying to smash Onions’ slower ball.

Collingwood said of his bowlers: .“I didn’t think we were right on song in this game on a wicket that was up and down and seaming around.

“I’ve only said that once in the 14 games I’ve been in charge.

“However, you can go back to the partnership in the morning. That brought about a momentum shift.”

Warwickshire’s innings had started with a no-ball when Onions looked to have trapped Varun Chopra plum lbw and Durham’s ended controversially too, Javid catching Michael Richardson’s hook on the square leg boundary.

The nearest spectators – still some distance away thanks to building work – were convinced Javid fell over the boundary taking the catch, which would have meant six runs.

It was reminiscent of Alex Hales’ boundary catch off Dale Benkenstein in the Twenty20 Cup here three years ago.

However, the umpires took Javid’s word he regained his balance just in front of the rope – Richardson took longer to be convinced – and television replays, while not totally conclusive, suggested that was probably the case.

It overshadowed Richardson’s excellent 50, his second in only three Championship innings this summer.

He lost Wood early, gifting Chris Wright a wicket similar to the one Javid gave him the previous day.

However, Richardson did a good job of monopolising the strike, Rushworth only able to give one chance, pulling too square for Westwood to get across from midwicket and catch.


David Whetstone
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