Durham set new record in title hunt

Durham 648-5 Nottinghamshire 65-2

Durham yesterday recorded the biggest Championship total in their history, in the process virtually securing a second First Division pennant in two years for the North-eastern side and killing off Nottinghamshire's faint hopes. Their 648 for 5 was a stunning demonstration of the ruthlessness that has kept them head and shoulders above their rivals this season.

With defeat out of the question after their record total, the guarantee of four points for a draw means they need to take six wickets in the first 120 overs of Nottinghamshire's innings to end their opponents' and Somerset's mathematical prospects of stopping them wrapping up a second successive title. Nottinghamshire closed on 65 for 2, meaning Durham have 96 overs to take four wickets.

Durham, who will let spectators in to the Riverside free of charge today and Saturday, had Mark Davies to thank for their two wickets having declared straight after beating their previous best of 645 for 6 against Middlesex at Lord's in 2002.

They had four century-makers in an innings for the first time in Michael Di Venuto, Kyle Coetzer, Dale Benkenstein and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. In his fifth season with the club, former captain Benkenstein's century (105) was his 15th for Durham – taking him to the top of their list.

"It probably wasn't one of my best," he said. "They were struggling with injuries, but we had a target and we just set out to reach it. I really enjoyed leading the side to their first title last season. But it was time to hand over, and Will Smith has done unbelievably well."

Chanderpaul (109 not out) took great care over completing his 50th first-class century, patting back the last four balls before tea from Samit Patel when he was on 99. The West Indian reached his hundred shortly after the break courtesy of a misfield by Darren Pattinson, which summed up the display by the visiting side for whom nothing would go right. Chanderpaul put on 203 with Benkenstein, whose century came off 170 balls, compared with 209 for his partner.

In addition to losing captain Chris Read and Charlie Shreck through injury on the first day, Mark Ealham was unable to bowl yesterday because of a rib problem. Bilal Shafayat kept in place of Read for the 2005 Champions.

When Nottinghamshire batted, Scott Newman, the left-hander on loan from Surrey, looked quite comfortable until Davies brought two balls sharply back into him. The second lbw appeal was upheld; then Mark Wagh flashed a catch to Liam Plunkett at gully.