Durham v Lancashire, Day Four: Durham made to sweat on first win

Durham at last recorded their first County Championship win since lifting the title last September - but their patience was sorely tested

Durham celebrate Steven Croft being caught out
Durham celebrate Steven Croft being caught out

When you have been made to wait nine months for your first win as county champions, patience ought to come naturally.

More importantly for Durham, last year’s title win has built up reserves of confidence to believe that when the going gets tough, they can come out on top.

You can talk all you like about positives, bad luck or individual performances, but the Riversiders’ trophy defence is now halfway through and until 4.32pm yesterday afternoon, they were yet to taste victory.

Through neutral eyes, seeing the game decided in the final session of an uninterrupted game made it almost the perfect County Championship match. For Durham, the satisfaction will have come from being made to work so hard for victory.

An unbeaten century for Jos Buttler – his second unrewarded hundred in a matter of weeks – made Durham sweat in the heat which, allied to what has become a typical fourth-day pancake of a Chester-le-Street pitch, made batting much more of a pleasure than it is supposed to be in this part of the world. By the time Chris Rushworth trapped Simon Kerrigan lbw from the fourth delivery with the second new ball, Lancashire were just 28 runs short of the highest successful run-chase on the ground.

“Wins like that are still nerve-wracking, but we understand that you’re only one wicket away from going bang, bang,” said a relieved Paul Collingwood afterwards.

“This pitch really does seem to be dying. It seems to be harder and harder to get 20 wickets in the match so the seamers did an exceptional job physically and mentally to keep going. It was quite hot out there and they still ran in hard.”

Captain Collingwood initially tried to dry up the runs, but unfortunately the standards set by Rushworth and John Hastings were too high to be maintained.

Rushworth must be one of the unluckiest bowlers on the circuit this season – and not only because he has had to do the donkey work to make light of a steady procession of injured bowlers. He seemed to spend Tuesday night continually beating Usman Khawaja’s bat, but in the morning finally located the edge.

Lancashire had just scored their first run of the day off its 15th delivery, a single to get Ashwell Prince off the mark. The next was a beauty, leaving the Australian, who could only touch it to the wicketkeeper.

Fifty-three balls were bowled before a Red Rose boundary. Hastings, who started the innings so wastefully, conceded just four runs in his five-over spell.

Once he came out of the attack, the game looked very different.

Steven Croft drove Paul Coughlin for four in his first over, and Buttler greeted Ben Stokes the same way. Between them the first-change pair conceded 61 in ten overs in their opening spells. The debutant at least took a wicket, strangling Prince down the legside with a ball that bounced on him, although the way the South African threw his bat down once he got off the field suggested he thought he had not made contact.

Scott Borthwick went for 30 in his first four overs, Buttler pulling a big six over long-on, then a four through long-off trying a repeat next ball.

Croft and England’s limited-overs wicketkeeper had clearly decided to counter-attack and as they stretched the score from 74 to 203-5 doubts must have crept into a Durham side unable to finish sides off since being crowned champions last September. When Croft’s pull was held just inside the rope by Gordon Muchall, back-pedalling furiously at deep square leg, Durham might indeed have expected to go bang, bang, but instead it was drip, drip.

Buttler could have gone three runs later, but his edge just evaded Borthwick at gully. When Tom Smith succumbed to a low catch by the same fielder he had inched his side 42 runs closer.

Glen Chapple batted more like an impetuous youngster than senior pro, captain and coach, inside-edging past his stumps on four, then caught behind swishing at Stokes.

Hastings was straining every sinew with the lifeless old ball – more of a hindrance, Durham believe, than the pitches – but Coughlin has by no means cornered the market in talented No 10 batsmen and Kabir Ali was happy to farm the strike as Durham initially encouraged him to in a swashbuckling innings ended by poking to short leg Keaton Jennings.

The match might have ended that over, Kerrigan inexplicably trying to run a quick single which would have seen him face the first delivery with the second new ball, only to recover his ground before Mark Stoneman’s throw came in from mid-on.

But it was fitting that Rushworth won the game – and that it was after Buttler completed his century – and typical of his 2014 that he missed out on a five-wicket haul.

With another home game against Sussex starting on Sunday, it is important this marks the start of a run for Durham, who lifted themselves out of the relegation zone and above Lancashire.

“The confidence was really high anyway,” insisted Collingwood. “We realised we were playing some really good cricket and I think we’ve improved as the season’s gone on.

“We played the better cricket over the four days and I think we deserved to win.

“It’s going to be tough getting results on this (Chester-le-Street) wicket, but I think we’ve got the confidence now to do it.”

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