Kent 212 & 160 Durham 321 & 52-2: Durham sign off in style to cap their best ever season

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The Independent Online

The former England swing bowler Martin Saggers was keeping wicket to the occasional leg-spinner Joe Denly when Durham's Michael Di Venuto pushed the victorious single to extra-cover that sustained Durham's Championship title dream for a few hours.

The upstarts among the 18 first-class counties had beaten elder statesman Kent by eight wickets with a day-and-a-half to spare, after which the sides contested an impromptu game of football on the St Lawrence outfield before settling in for some liquid celebration and Durham's own rendition of the Robbie Williams classic "Angels" from their dressing-room balcony.

It was a somewhat farcical end to a Championship campaign where Durham, inspired by limited overs' silverware, mounted their last-gasp challenge against a mentally exhausted Kent side fresh from clinching their top flight survival.

Little surprise then that Kent's walking wounded capitulated on the third morning by losing their last seven wickets for 61 inside 15 overs.

Under grey skies Liam Plunkett got the ball to nip around and started the home collapse with a stint of three for five in 13 balls from the Pavilion End, before England's newest bowling coach Ottis Gibson replaced him to claim two wickets in as many balls.

Kent's last hope, Ryan McLaren, gloved Gibson's third ball of the day, a rearing leg-cutter, to slip, then, next ball up, Simon Cook had two of his stumps removed with a yorker.

Durham were left to score 52 for victory and an emphatic double over Kent, which they achieved for the loss of two to rash shots inside 10.1 overs of friendly fire from the likes of Geraint Jones, who had previously only bowled one over in county cricket.

Gibson, the Professional Cricketers' Association's player of the season, was sporting a beaming smile when he said: "To be champions for a day is a bit unusual and all we can really do now is hope Worcestershire hang on [at Hove] or a nasty fog comes in off the coast. We're just enjoying this moment because no one really expected it."

The Durham skipper Dale Benkenstein said: "This was just about all we could do. Wherever the title ends up going, this has been our best ever season. We've shown commitment and quality throughout to put seriously good teams under pressure."

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