No one at the first two days of Durham’s County Championship match against Sussex will be greatly surprised when they wrap up victory today, but at tea yesterday you would have had very long odds on them being one good ball away from it this morning.
Sussex played out the extra half-hour for the early loss of Jonathan Lewis, prodding behind to finally give the always-unlucky Chris Rushworth his first wicket of the match.
So Durham will be back tomorrow to wrap up the victory which will take them fourth in Division One.
Even by Chester-le-Street’s fast-forward standards, it was a remarkable day’s cricket.
To see Keaton Jennings and Scott Borthwick start it with a 200-run partnership made you fret Durham had made an error by delaying their declaration until tea.
By the time an in-form Ben Stokes had collected his first ten-wicket haul, you wondered why they did not stay out a bit longer.
It was meant to be a day all about the future of England, putting failure to bed and looking to youth - but not at Chester-le-Street.
While a youthful England football team toiled in Belo Horizonte and the cricketers were losing in Leeds, Stokes and Borthwick reminded Durham fans of something they have known for years – the club’s academy have found another two players who can be Test-match mainstays.
Once Stokes was ridiculously left out of England’s squad for the Sri Lanka series, it was inevitable fireworks would follow.
The only surprise was he waited so long, taking a back seat as the champions recorded their first four-day win over the season over Lancashire last week.
This week, though, he has exploded into the party.
His 31 from 25 deliveries was more entertaining than significant, but his ten wickets for 121 have defined the match.
Some of his deliveries on an unresponsive pitch were unplayable. Chris Nash and Luke Wells must wish the ones they received had been too. It was all a bit deja-vu for Sussex’s openers.
Firstly, Wells was caught by Borthwick via a ricochet off Phil Mustard.
The only good thing about Mustard’s bout of dropsy in this match is his team-mates have been wonderfully alert to the rebounds.
When Mustard put a legside chance down off Ed Joyce, on 17, Paul Collingwood did not have time to get to the ball before it hit the turf.
If Joyce had bat on ball was unclear, but Stokes was none too happy.
In the first innings Nash got a brute of a short ball from Stokes which he was just able to get his hands out of the way of. He could not do it twice. This time Mustard held on.
Stokes’ celebration when the finger was raised for his tenth wicket in the match was reminiscent of another one-time Durham all-rounder, but mentioning his name in connection with the 23-year-old is not especially useful, so suffice to say Stokes was pretty happy to trap Rory Hamilton-Brown lbw and take ten wickets in a match for the first time.
Five balls before Mustard reprieved Joyce, Borthwick had too, from what for him was a routine opportunity.
The Irishman’s luck ran out when Michael Richardson took an excellent diving catch at gully to let Paul Coughlin in on the wicket-taking.
Then Hastings took over, having Ben Brown caught in the slips and swinging one into Steffan Piolet’s pads.
Luke Wright brainlessly picked Gordon Muchall out on the deep square leg boundary and when Mustard ran across the slips to take Steve Magoffin’s edge it looked like Sussex might earn themselves a day off by surrendering early.
Nine down, the ball looped off James Tredwell’s gloves but Mustard was unable to run on to it.
Borthwick and Jennings laid the platform. The former is in a rich vein of form, averaging 83.8 in his last five innings. Jennings was not, having failed to reach 50 in his last eight.
The South African was much the quicker scorer on Monday but three consecutive fours saw Borthwick overtake him in the 80s. The first two went through extra cover, the third through mid-on. Then it looked like he would win the race to three figures - but he fell at the final fence.
It was the fourth time he has been out in the 90s since the start of last season. As flaws go, there are worse, but it is one he will want to eradicate.
Jennings reached 100 but was out four balls later, flashing at a cut for a third catch to Tredwell, involved in all of the first five wickets.