Durham seemed determined to maximise the drama of their fight to stay in the First Division of the Championship. They could have made their placer safe early yesterday afternoon, but contrived to lose their last four wickets in 12 balls and fall short of the follow-on by 10 runs. That left at least 46 overs for Yorkshire to bowl before Durham could be sure that they and not Nottinghamshire remain in the top flight.
Durham's openers went quickly, both lbw to Gideon Kruis, and then the batsmen were required to dig in against Yorkshire's promising leg-spinners, Adil Rashid and Mark Lawson, but this was not a wicket on which they could enrich themselves. Anthony McGrath held an acrobatic catch, but dropped two, maybe three, others.
Yorkshire were already safe after a season dominated by the threat of relegation, Durham lost only one more wicket before passing Yorkshire's record-breaking total: Garry Park made a timely hundred, his first in his second Championship game, and the draw meant that Durham stay up, and Nottinghamshire, who managed only one point in a pathetic performance against Sussex last week, are relegated, just one year after winning the Championship. No one could say the outcome was unjust. Durham have got guts; Nottinghamshire have mislaid theirs.
Play started 75 minutes late and Craig White did not bowl the first of his bright young leg-spinners until the last over before lunch. The ball was wet, the wicket taking minimal spin and the partnership of Dale Benkenstein and Ottis Gibson was more than 250.
As Durham reached 500, and both batsmen passed 150, Durham were 25 runs short of the enormous total of 528 to avoid the follow-on. With four wickets standing, it looked a doddle.
Lawson and Rashid have been the revelation of Yorkshire revival, which had been made possible by the weight of runs from Darren Lehmann and Tony McGrath. Both leggies are graduates of the Yorkshire Academy, both short, both cocky and confident. Lawson had played six matches before this one and Rashid four but they had salvaged Yorkshire's season, taking 45 wickets between them; they were the architects of the vital defeat of Nottinghamshire earlier this month, and now Rashid was about to upset Durham's new found sense of security.
Lawson was first to inflict damage when Benkenstein top- edged a sweep to the keeper. He contributed 151 to the stand of 315 with Gibson, the highest partnership in Durham's history - one which they must have thought must keep them up. But Gibson did not a play a stroke to Rashid and was bowled for his highest ever score of 155. Neil Kileen, playing and missing, was lbw, and Graham Onions was last out. Rashid's final figures were 4 for 144, but he could not repeat the performance when Durham batted again.
For Lehmann, whose 339 in Yorkshire's innings is the highest ever by a Yorkshire batsmen, this had been a memorable finale. He has scored 8,871 runs at 68.77 for Yorkshire, and when the occasions was celebrated quietly by pushing him forward to walk alone on to the ground after tea, the small crowd of loyalists gave him a standing ovation. Richly deserved.Reuse content