The consensus view on Paul Collingwood's performance as Durham captain is that the end of his international career could not have come at a more opportune time. Since he took over from Phil Mustard midway through last season, he has won eight of his 13 first-class matches.
Yet the former England all-rounder, who has the distinction of being the only England captain to lift a one-day trophy after the 2010 Twenty20 World Cup triumph, is the first to admit there are things he needs to do better, such as judging the right moment to declare.
Collingwood was somewhat embarrassed when Yorkshire left Chester-le-Street victorious in April, having reasoned that he needed to give his bowlers the time they needed to take 10 wickets only for Yorkshire, set a target of 336 in 103 overs, to knock off the runs with 6.1 overs to spare, winning by four wickets.
In Collingwood's mitigation, there was the matter of a stupendous innings of 182 from Joe Root to take into account, but he still confessed to knowing less about the wicket at his home ground than he felt he should, as captain.
You imagine he was thinking about that again yesterday, when he waited and waited, long past the point at which the thought first occurred that he should call his batsmen in, before declaring Durham's second innings on 240 for 6, which set Middlesex to score 304 from a minimum of 51 overs.
It seemed like too much and Middlesex plainly thought the same. The sun blazed all day – a rare treat – and the pitch was increasingly docile but having been behind in the match throughout, and given a helping hand by Friday's contrastingly awful weather, they never even contemplated throwing their wickets away in pursuit of an unlikely outcome.
Durham's bowlers did try to force the issue, even though it was a tall order for them, too, to take 10 wickets. Four wickets in the space of 11 overs, taking Middlesex from the comfort of 96 for 1 to the uncertainty of 129 for 5, raised Collingwood's hopes. Mark Wood, holding down a place at last, claimed the major breakthrough when he trapped Chris Rogers leg before and then nipped one back to bowl Dawid Malan. Graham Onions removed Neil Dexter and John Simpson.
An hour still remained, time enough for Durham to dismiss any notion of offering an early handshake and the moment for Joe Denly to apply himself with the tenacity some might say he has not shown often enough so far this season and see Middlesex over the line.
Denly did his bit, digging in for the best part of three hours for his unbeaten 73. He lost another partner when Gareth Berg was caught in a leg gully trap set by Wood but the outcome ultimately was the one predicted, if reached by an elongated route.
Middlesex drop to second in the table, a point behind the new leaders Sussex, with Durham nudging ahead of Yorkshire into third.Reuse content