Paul Collingwood admitted to a touch of anxiety over when to throw the gauntlet down to Sussex as he pondered over the weather forecast and remembered his error of judgment, in declaring too soon, that handed Yorkshire a win at the Riverside in the spring.
In the event, though, he need not have worried. Sussex, purportedly the third-best team in the country going into this game, proved no more adept at batting in the second innings than they had been in the first and were bowled out, for 116. That gave Durham a landslide third-day victory which moves them into first place in the race for the Championship, with a lead over erstwhile favourites Yorkshire, whom they beat so impressively at Scarborough last week, of 14 ½ points.
Of course, the contest is not over yet. Yorkshire may find Sussex's brittle confidence to their advantage at Hove next week; Durham could discover Derbyshire tough nuts to crack as last season's Second Division champions attempt to defy the odds and stay up. Yet Durham seem to have momentum in the finishing straight, and a young squad playing without fear under Collingwood's leadership.
This was the former England all-rounder's 12th win from 19 first-class matches since he succeeded Phil Mustard as captain and it was done and dusted before tea, as under-strength Sussex collapsed as sides lacking self-belief are prone to do. They have not scored so few runs in a single match – 228 – since 1926.
Collingwood's cautious approach to his declaration meant that Durham batted on for 40 minutes this morning and pulled out only when the lead had passed 400.
Realistically, though, the only calculation he needed to consider was whether Durham could take 10 wickets ahead of a likely change in the weather. Graham Onions claimed the first with only his third ball as Luke Wells edged to second slip, and while it took 15 overs for the second to arrive, Michael Yardy's dismissal just before lunch to a full, straight ball from Mitch Claydon prompted Sussex to fold after lunch, losing their last eight wickets for 45.
Claydon took three wickets, as did Usman Arshad, the 20-year-old seamer playing in only his second match. Impressive with the bat in making 34 earlier, he took two in two balls. Onions, meanwhile, increased his match haul to seven without being at his best. Durham are going to take some stopping now.
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