Notts secure fourth win in four despite Stokes' maiden ton

Durham 218 & 279 Nottinghamshire 559-8d <i>(Notts win by an innings and 62 runs)</i>
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The Independent Online

A superb maiden century from 18-year-old Ben Stokes lifted Durham's spirits but could not deny Nottinghamshire the win that takes them to the top of the Division One table with only five points dropped. They are eight points ahead of Yorkshire from one match fewer and – perhaps more significantly – 55 points in front of the title winners of the last two years after only four matches.

It is a measure of Durham's recent dominance that this was their first defeat in the Championship since August 2008, ending an unbeaten run of 23 games. Their captain, Will Smith, admits they already have a lot to do if they are to make it three titles in a row.

"It is a big gap to make up," Smith said. "We have had injuries but we are not making that an excuse. Where we are in the table probably reflects the way we have been playing."

The margin of victory – an innings and 62 runs – was satisfying for Nottinghamshire after losing twice by an innings to Durham last season. In the match here last year, they were bowled out for 83 in the second innings, Steve Harmison taking 6-20. Harmison, rusty after a lay-off, never looked capable of similar havoc, even on a sporty pitch that, as director of cricket Mick Newell revealed, has been central to Nottinghamshire's early-season strategy.

"You get a chance to request certain times of year to play at home," he said. "The light-roller rule has made a big difference and I knew if we got good weather there would not be many draws if we got the pitches right."

Hampshire and Essex are due here before the end of the month and the only cloud on the horizon is that Hashim Amla, who has scored heavily in all four wins, is required by South Africa, and Australia's David Hussey does not arrive until June, leaving them without an overseas player.

Durham, whose front-line batsmen were found wanting, can at least console themselves in the knowledge that Stokes is clearly an all-rounder with a future. A crisp, powerful hitter, he went from 82 to 102 in four hits – four, six, six, four – off spinner Samit Patel.

He perished trying to hook Paul Franks out of the ground but Newell, who coaches him for England's under-19s, has no doubts about his prospects. "He has the full package and I'm sure he will be an international cricketer," Newell said.