Durham got the season off to a poor start as they were defeated at Chester-le-Street for the first time since September 2015. The gap of 89 points to Notts has deflated some of the early optimism about the chances of a promotion push but the reality is this was a game of fine margins and did not reveal much about how the squad will fare against the rest of the division.
Throughout the match, Durham faced the worst of the batting conditions, a floodlit first day and an overcast last session on day two which decided the result. Notts on the other hand made the most of the seamer friendly gloom and found themselves batting in bright sunshine throughout the second day. The other difference maker was the ability of Notts tail to pick up runs and a lack of ruthlessness from Durham’s seamers after taking three quick wickets at the end of the first day. In the preview, it was highlighted how in Notts’ victory over Derbyshire it was Pattinson and Broad who were the main contributors with the bat and this repeated itself with Luke Fletcher equalling is career best 92 as a night watchman and Pattinson scoring his second consecutive half century. If both of these tail enders had been dismissed for their average Notts would have had over 100 less runs on the board and Durham would have been favourites on the final day. Despite this, and perhaps most frustratingly for Durham, they were about an hour away from finding a draw in the match as the rain came down on Monday afternoon. If Durham are going to dominate against the rest of the division they will need Cook, Burnham and Richardson to provide greater support for Keaton Jennings, who continues be a run machine.
The top order is therefore the first take away from this match. It is unfair to criticise any individual after the top four struggled to put together partnerships in both innings. As previously stated the batting conditions were tough and James Pattinson and Jake Ball bowled superbly. As tough a debut as Stephen Cook could have had and not the easiest start to life as number three for Jack Burnham. The quality of Pattinson and Ball compared to the change bowlers Fletcher and Gurney was evident in the second innings during Durham’s first meaningful partnership between Paul Collingwood and Jennings. Captain Collingwood looked in great form, hitting five fours in his 40, but when Pattinson came back on for his second spell it was only a matter of time before his dismissal as it was clear his pace was too much. Overall it is unlikely that there will be any changes for the upcoming trip to Bristol but Michael Richardson will likely be looking over his shoulder at the form of Graham Clark for the seconds as the Cumbrian hit two hundreds in the 2nd XI fixture mid-week.
Alongside Collingwood’s innings Durham can also take heart from Paul Coughlin’s effective allround display as he makes his case as a number 6. Coughlin bowled with good pace, and while not as economical as Rushworth and Onions he created chances and forced false shots consistently. It is unlikely that there will be many better fourth seamers around the counties this season. His near run a ball 36 in the second innings was also very promising and hopefully will prove to be just the beginning of what he can bring to the side after being moved up the order. Stuart Poynter also seems to have cemented his spot as wicketkeeper with a tidy display behind the stumps as well as his aggressive 65 in the first innings which proved to be Durham’s only real resistance to Notts seamers on day 1. It would not be a surprise to see him moved up to number 7 and Ryan Pringle relegated back to 8 at some point in the near future. It seems Poynter will also get his first real consistent run in the side in all formats as he has not been included in Ireland’s 14 man squad to face England in May. His omission could prove a blessing in disguise for the 26 year old as he could be utilised higher up the order once the One Day Cup begins.
It is difficult to know how this game will be seen come the end of the season but, looking past the disappointment, it should bring into greater focus Durham’s task at hand. With thirteen more championship matches remaining it is likely that at least eight wins will be needed for promotion. Anything less than a dominating performance against Gloucestershire will begin to raise serious concerns about the chances of completing this mammoth task.