Blackwell's high five has Durham closing on title

Somerset 174 Durham 110-3

Ian blackwell has enjoyed a fine first season for Durham but few performances can have pleased him as much as yesterday's. Somerset was his cricketing home until last November, when he headed north, and are one of the North-eastern club's only feasible rivals for the County Championship. Or at least they were. Blackwell's remarkable return of 5 for 7 against his former colleagues has given Durham a huge shove towards their second title in two seasons.

They have a game in hand on their visitors, who arrived here 30 points adrift and needing a win to retain any hope of staying in the race. That now looks very unlikely after Blackwell's left-arm spin completed their collapse from 89 without loss to 174 all out.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul then reached the close unbeaten on 49 not out of Durham's 110 for 3 to drive home the advantage. Somerset's hopes had risen briefly when Charl Willoughby removed Michael Di Venuto and Will Smith with successive balls with the total on 24, but Chanderpaul and Kyle Coetzer put on 80 before the Scot was bowled by Ben Phillips for 30, one over before the close.

Blackwell was not the only Durham bowling hero. They were bolstered by the return of Graham Onions and Steve Harmison from England duty, but Liam Plunkett was the pick of their seamers. After taking 3 for 169 in the last three championship matches his batting average of 46.5 probably helped him survive at the expense of Mark Davies, but he would have had a five-wicket haul but for two dropped slip catches.

With a break for lunch after six overs, Plunkett bowled unchanged for 21 overs and finished with 3 for 65. There were two wides in his second over, but once he found his line he shaped the ball away from the right-handers at good pace.

Onions removed both Marcus Trescothick and Justin Langer, but not before Arul Suppiah had given the visitors hope as he reached 50 off 70 balls with nine fours. Both he and Trescothick fell with the total on 89, however: the former England left-hander departed first for 31 when he played a loose shot wide of off stump and was well caught by Smith at gully. Then Suppiah drove at Plunkett and edged to Phil Mustard.

Langer should have gone for two when Chanderpaul dropped a regulation catch at first slip off Plunkett, but he added only 10 before an excellent ball from Onions swung in to bowl him.

Blackwell then struck in his second over when James Hildreth pushed firmly at one and steered a catch straight to Thorp at second slip. Plunkett accounted for Peter Trego and Craig Kieswetter, both well caught by Di Venuto at second slip. Then successive balls from Blackwell had Zander de Bruyn and Ben Phillips lbw before Alfonso Thomas edged to Di Venuto and left-hander Willoughby was beaten by the turn and bowled.


Wickets taken in the County Championship by Ian Blackwell of Durham this year.

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