SOMETIMES the determination can only be one or two percent down and it makes all the difference,” said coach Geoff Cook in the build-up to Durham’s game with Worcestershire.
He was talking about how his side put themselves back in the title picture at Hove, but his words proved prescient yesterday.
On Monday morning, Durham knew only victory would give them a sniff of winning the title they were so disappointed not to properly compete for 12 months ago.
Keen to head off the threat of Twenty20 cricket by heaping yet more spice into a two-division structure which has created plenty of final-week dramas, the ECB have greatly beefed up the prize money for a top-four finish in the County Championship in recent years. A large chunk goes straight into the players’ pockets.
Finish second, as opposed to third, where Durham started the game, and you double your money.
You would not have known it at a subdued Chester-le-Street yesterday afternoon.
It was not just the absence of Hurricane Katia which took the attritional feel away. There was no spark, no energy, no obvious passion in the field as Durham searched for badly-needed bonus points.
After tea, that 2% was back. With interest. Two brilliant catches sparked it, from Dale Benkenstein and Will Smith as Paul Collingwood bowled the first over after the break. A new ball offering bounce not previously seen in this match continued it, and Worcestershire – needing 300 to secure their place in next season’s Division One, were bowled out for 288.
Having been cruising with Vikram Solanki and Alexei Kervezee at the crease, they lost seven wickets for 33 runs.
Benkenstein is a naturally inspirational cricketer, and the 37-year-old’s plunge at midwicket had just that effect. His occasional bowling had earned Durham a much-needed first bowling bonus point, strangling Moeen Ali down legside, and his catch sent jitters through a Worcestershire dressing room loaded with spirit this season but, as the league table attests, not so much quality.
The sixth delivery with the new ball was a beauty Gareth Andrew did well to avoid as it lifted and left him from Graham Onions. He and Thorp were suitably inspired.