The more sage among Durham followers doubt their side has the depth of batting to win the title for the second time in three seasons, yet what appeared to be a stiff challenge in the fourth innings of a low-scoring match here in the end proved to be comfortably within their scope.
Faced with chasing 261 to win on a pitch that had been full of menace for the bowlers to exploit for the first two days, even captain Paul Collingwood, who knows how things tend to unfold here as well as anyone, thought it would need “something special” to deny Nottinghamshire.
In the event, after three almost routine half-centuries from Keaton Jennings, Scott Borthwick and Michael Richardson, Durham were home and dry, a few showers notwithstanding, by six wickets, with the best part of four sessions left unused, giving them three wins from four matches.
If there was something special it came from Mark Wood, newly elevated to England seam bowler, who also got a half-century, in his case an career-best 66, notable for being made as nightwatchman, batting through the most difficult conditions of the day with the ball still hard and the pitch at its freshest.
He had the odd moment of fortune, with some of his runs coming from unintended parts of the bat, and survived an appeal for a catch at second slip on 32, although there were no obvious complaints from Nottinghamshire when umpire Russell Evans ruled that Samit Patel had taken it on the half-volley.
It was Wood’s second half-century, exceeding his 58 not out, also made against Nottinghamshire, in 2013. It is a curiosity of the Ashington-born swing bowler’s career so far that he has played against Nottinghamshire more than any other county and always been successful: from four matches 21 wickets at 19.78, 240 runs at 48.00.
Nottinghamshire would rate themselves no less equipped than Durham to contend for the Championship, probably better in the strength of their batting. But, unlike Durham, they find it difficult to bowl sides out and that, after all, is the key requirement. They are still looking for a first win.
Two of their seamers were inexperienced, in 19-year-old Luke Wood and 22-year-old Brett Hutton, with only a handful of first-class matches between them, but director of cricket Mick Newell would not fall back on that as an excuse. “I thought they were our best bowlers in both innings,” he said. “But if you have a lead of 82 on first innings on this ground and lose the game you have played pretty poorly.”
Collingwood, who turns 39 this month, is tipped as a candidate for the England coaching vacancy but has dismissed that possibility for the moment. “It would have to be a ridiculous offer, something I couldn’t turn down,” he said.
“I spoke about last year being my last one, but if I keep taking wickets and scoring runs and keep enjoying it, and bringing some good youngsters through here at Durham, it is going to be a hard thing to give up.”Reuse content