Cricket: Barnett bars the way

Derbyshire 205 and 269-9 Durham 434-6 declared Match drawn
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FIVE DEFEATS for Durham in their previous seven matches, all within three days, meant it was something of a change for the visitors actually to start the final day at Derby yesterday - and even more surprising to have a chance of victory. But it was an opportunity missed.

The giddy heights of second in the Championship in early June are nothing but a distant memory, so it must have been something of a relief for David Boon, the Durham captain, to see Derbyshire on the fixture list. Since attaining first-class status in 1992, Durham have been everybody's whipping boys, except Derbyshire and Glamorgan. Both had suffered three defeats to the new boys and, when Michael May was yorked by Paul Collingwood with a minimum of eight overs remaining and the lead only 36, it appeared the East Midlanders might suffer their fourth.

The last pair of Kevin Dean, who stonewalled for 26 overs, and Trevor Smith survived without alarm. But Boon was hampered by bad light restricting him to an all-spin attack for the last 23 overs, a hindrance that probably cost Durham victory. The aggression and perseverance of John Wood were sorely missed as the match drew to a close. Yet if the younger Derbyshire batsmen had displayed the tenacity and discipline of Kim Barnett, in his 20th season at the club, the threat of defeat would never have arisen.

Barnett needs only a hundred against Durham to join the select group of players to have a full set of centuries against all the other first- class counties, but he abandoned the sure and sensible method that had worked so well for over three hours and holed out to mid-on just two runs short of that goal. At least his shot was bred from nerves, as opposed to the thoughtlessness which infects some of his team-mates. Ben Spendlove is undoubtedly a talented strokeplayer, but his judgement in shot selection is often circumspect.

But Barnett did reach 1,000 runs in a season for the 15th time and was ably supported by Robin Weston in a 121-run partnership. Weston was released by Durham at the end of last year with a first-class average of under 10, but since moving south has secured a first-team spot with a series of composed innings. He displayed an admirably straight bat and a calm temperament but, as so often happens with substantial partnerships, both batsmen fell in quick succession.

The architect of their downfall was Nicky Phillips, an off-spinner whose seasonal figures before this match were just 12 championship wickets in 235 overs. Bowling unchanged from 2.30pm, he recorded career-best figures and his first five-wicket haul, without ever really threatening to win the game.