The temporary stand was already in place at the home of the outgoing county champions yesterday, in readiness for the first of the end-of-season, 50-over, one-day internationals here on Friday week. In fact, with 15,000 tickets sold, provision has been made for an additional 1,000 pale-blue seats to be added at the back of the makeshift terrace. Whether there have been any takers for them since the News of the World rolled off the presses last weekend is open to question.
By the time Pakistan hit Chester-le-Street there is a possibility that the County Championship trophy will be on its way from the Riverside (or the Durham Emirates International Cricket Ground, to use its official name these days) to Trent Bridge.
Nottinghamshire arrived here yesterday with a 16-point lead in the First Division and in the game they have in hand over Somerset and Yorkshire in second and third respectively, with two each left to play thereafter, they have stretched their room at the top to 18, courtesy of two first-day bowling points.
Not that Nottinghamshire – who entertain Yorkshire in their penultimate fixture next week – can take the 16 points from a victory for granted. Not by a long chalk. They may have had Durham up against the ropes before lunch, at 53 for 3 and 76 for 4, but the reigning champions fought back to 347 for 6 by the close of play, Phil Mustard leading the resistance with a captain's knock of 117 not out.
In the corresponding fixture last season Durham wrapped up the title (with two matches to spare), thanks to a first innings tally of 648 for 5 declared that opened with a stand of 314 between Michael Di Venuto and Kyle Coetzer. Yesterday they had just four extras on the board when they lost their first wicket, Ryan Sidebottom trapping Di Venuto lbw with the sixth ball of the day. In last year's encounter Durham's Tasmanian opener carried his bat through the first day for 219. This time round he went for a duck – after surviving a spilt catch by Andre Adams from the previous delivery by Sidebottom, who will leave to join the England Twenty20 squad at stumps today and is to be replaced by Darren Pattinson.
Durham need points to avert the lingering threat of relegation and they struggled to reach 95 for 4 at lunch, Gordon Muchall and Dale Benkenstein both falling for 13 and Ben Harmison for two. It was Mark Stoneman who steadied the home ship with a contribution of 67 runs – and a fifth-wicket stand of 87 in the company of Ian Blackwell – before falling lbw to Adams.
Blackwell went for 59, bowled by Adams, leaving Durham on 188 for 6. It was to be their final loss of the day, though. By stumps, they had three batting points in the bag and were just three runs shy of a fourth. Mustard, the sometime England one-day wicketkeeper, was sharing a seventh-wicket partnership of 159 with Scott Borthwick. The 20-year-old all-rounder finished unbeaten on 54, his joint-highest first-class score.