Midway through Wednesday afternoon Martin Emmerson, BBC Newcastle's cricket reporter tweeted that a second batting point gained by Durham meant that they were safe from relegation. By close of play Marty had retreated from that position adding the caveat that it would depend on the outcome of the game at Southampton between Hants and Yorkshire where the hosts must not win. Not the same as safety and on a fine morning enough to entice me up to Chester le Street where the game was nicely balanced and all four results possible.
From Southampton news came through that Gale and Vince had agreed a run chase which, perhaps as a reflection of Hampshire's precarious position, seemed generous to Yorkshire, 304 off 96, but not a gimmee by any means and certainly not when Yorkshire were 37 for 3. Putting that to one side the small crowd that gathered at The Riverside, and the south east corner was short of a few regulars, were entertained for over seven hours in which 17 wickets fell, 466 runs were scored without resort to joke bowling, and we were kept enthralled until almost six o'clock.
Before the close it was known that Yorkshire had won thus ensuring that despite their spectacular collapse since mid June, Durham were safe, and victory over The Pears could mean they might finish as high as fourth, but for Worcestershire it was muck or nettles and only very late in the day did their demeanour suggest they knew the game was up. During the morning session they added 175 off 25 overs with D'Oliveira, Kohler-Cadmore and Whiteley all impressing, and with nine down and a lead just short of 300 and right on lunch, Mitchell declared.
291 off 70 overs, despite Scott Borthwick's bullish statement of Wednesday evening, seemed a tough ask for a side who couldn't chase just over 200 at Trent Bridge last week, and when Burnham, who has found the step up to the championship a tough one, went lbw to West Indian test player Gabriel, 'here we go again' was not far from my lips but cometh the hour and all that, for Borthwick, scorer of over 1200 runs in the 2015 championship and who has acquired the useful knack of scoring nineties, joined Stoneman and partnerships of 75 with the opener and 104 with Collingwood saw Durham well past half way. The dismissal of Collingwood at 215 left Richardson in charge and although I think he is a place too high at five an aggregate of just short of 1000 runs places him well up among wicketkeepers and it was fitting that he should hit the winning runs with four overs to spare and in what had become very poor light.
last tea time of the season
The fifth wicket to fall had been that of Muchall and if the applause afforded to a man who had scored only 12 seemed generous it may be that the faithful were taking what might be their last chance to appreciate someone who has been a great servant to the county since his debut in 2002. It is understood that he has been released but that comes with a side portion of ifs and buts for two years ago we believed he would only play white ball cricket in future, since when he has played 22 championship matches, scoring 1243 runs at an average of over 36 and scored three centuries. Watch this space.
And so on what, despite a sharp shower before tea, had been a decent day, good enough to bring 19 wagtails out to play at one point, we reached the end of another season at The Riverside. A round of 'winter wells' and we were on our way. Some, perhaps including the wagtails will be back for Madness next week. All being well the rest of us will be back for another form of madness in April, and we can be content that following the ECB's announcement on Wednesday, for one more season at least we can look forward to 8 championship games. I'll settle for that (for now).