They might have been quaffing in the Quantocks and dancing in Dunster last night. But Somerset were agonisingly denied their first county title when they had to watch Nottinghamshire draw level on points and pip them by virtue of more wins.
Somerset dismissed Durham for 320 at Chester-le-Street, leaving themselves a target of 181 in 17 overs. Under Twenty20 rules on an unused pitch victory might have been possible, but not with their old team-mate Ian Blackwell able to bowl into fourth-day rough.
He bowled Craig Kieswetter through a wild slog and had Peter Trego stumped, while Marcus Trescothick made 21 off 22 balls before driving Ruel Brathwaite to extra cover. With three wickets down and 144 needed off 10 overs, Somerset decided not to risk throwing away the three points for a draw. They were 48 for 3 when hands were shaken with five overs left.
Because of the change in playing times to allow Somerset to catch a 7pm flight from Newcastle ahead of tomorrow's Clydesdale Bank 40 final at Lord's, there was still an hour to play at Old Trafford. The 300 Somerset supporters who had made the 300-mile trip in the hope of seeing their team crowned then had to watch Nottinghamshire take the three wickets they needed on Durham's giant screen. They had cheered when Yorkshire lost to Kent; now there was a collective groan.
Trescothick, the Somerset captain, said: "The lads are distraught. To get so close to winning it for the first time really is gutting. It was tough when we lost the Twenty20 final, and now it will be hard to lift everyone for Saturday. But the bags are packed, we have a flight to catch and we have to switch back on."
With the ball not swinging in the chilly air, and the pitch remaining sound, there was little penetration in the Somerset attack. They probed patiently, however, and victory hopes rose when they struck twice in the last two overs before lunch. Michael di Venuto left for 129 when he pushed forward and edged Trego to Kieswetter, then Murali Kartik had Blackwell taken off bat and pad.
In the 24 overs in an afternoon session shortened by a shower, Durham added only 32 runs with Dale Benkenstein determined to make Somerset sweat. The man who captained Durham to their first title two years ago was last out for 25, but by surviving for 95 balls he had effectively ended Trescothick's chance to emulate him.
* Worcestershire pulled off a smash-and-grab four-wicket victory over Sussex at New Road and then had to wait for confirmation of their promotion to the First Division. Century-makers James Cameron and Moeen Ali made light of their task in chasing 301 in 70 overs for their third win in the last four games but celebrations were delayed for over an hour until they heard that Glamorgan had failed to beat Derbyshire at Cardiff.Reuse content