With defeat to Lancashire in the final game Durham could not overcome the two-point penalty and reach the top three of the competition. Without the deduction Durham would have made it through on net run rate, which would have been an incredible achievement for a team depleted of depth and dependent on inexperience. From the last four games Durham were always going to need three wins and after victories against Northamptonshire and in spectacular fashion against Notts it looked like qualification was going to be achieved. In the end two chases against Worcestershire and Lancashire fell apart as the top three, who were superb throughout the competition, could not win every match on their own.
Looking at the four games individually, the win against Northamptonshire was achieved by a superb hundred from Keaton Jennings and an unbeaten fifty from Paul Collingwood. Durham were also effective with the ball even without Mark Wood, picking up wickets at regular intervals throughout the Northants innings. The game at Trent Bridge against Notts was perhaps the highlight of the tournament. With the spotlight on the match in the form of Sky’s television cameras and against the formidable seam attack of Pattinson, Ball and Broad, Durham’s victory was outstanding. Again the seamers stepped up with more wickets for James Weighell. The biggest worry though was the batting as Stephen Cook had been recalled by Cricket South Africa for fitness tests and an awards dinner. The top order therefore needed a rejig and Graham Clark, who had not been able to find any form at four was moved up to open. When Jake Ball took the wickets of Jennings and Richardson, Durham’s two form players, for a combined one run it seemed like the match was over. The top order had failed for the first time in the tournament and now Durham needed the out of form Clark and Steel to build a partnership to set up the lower order who had barely had a bat in the previous matches. With Notts’ seamers bowling extremely well and Clark not looking able to use the middle of his bat most watched on with astonishment as he, along with Cameron Steel survived to ten overs, then twenty overs, then thirty overs. In the end the pair put on 160 for the third wicket and this kept Durham in the game and allowed for Paul Collingwood, who had bowled superbly, to come up with a magnificent 73* (47) hitting the winning runs on the first ball of the final over.
Coming of the high of the Notts game the next challenge came in the form of Worcestershire away. Jennings sent Worcester in and the bowlers seemed to be on top for most of the innings, and at one stage it looked unlikely the score would go too far past 250. In the end, thanks largely to Brett D’Oliveira, Worcestershire ended up setting Durham 271 to win on a slow pitch that was not easy to score quickly on. Durham’s chase got off to a steady start as Jennings and Clark put on an opening stand of 122. None of the subsequent Durham batsmen managed a score above 20, or a partnership above 30. What is particularly galling about this loss is that it really would have only taken on of the middle order to have got a score to have won the game. Another frustration was that Keaton Jennings dismissal, caught at slip, seemed from all the replays to have been an obvious bump ball and Jennings could not believe he had been given out. John Lewis refused to comment on it in his interview post-match. What this all meant was that, despite being clearly one of the best three teams in the north group Durham needed to beat Lancashire at the Riverside and hope Notts failed to win against Northants. With the weather putting an end to the Northants match it was then entirely in Durham’s hands. With this being the situation the team really needed the two constants of their campaign, threatening seam bowling and large top order partnerships, to find a crucial win. This was not to be, Rushworth struggled with his line and Weighell and Coughlin were extremely expensive through impotent short bowling. However, even with this issue Collingwood and George Harding reeled Lancashire back in as in their 20 overs they took 4-84. Once they had finished their allocations it was a partnership from Dane Vilas and captain Steven Croft that took Lancashire from 126-4 to 244-5. In the end Lancs set Durham 305 to win and this always looked like they had put on twenty or thirty too many. Then Cook, just back from South Africa, and Jennings fell early leaving Durham at 2-19. Durham were going to need a repeat of the Notts chase except on a tougher pitch and larger boundaries. There was some resistance from Michael Richardson who scored 58 despite injuring himself midway through and requiring a runner. It was this runner, Jennings, who created the moment which ended the game as a contest as Paul Collingwood ended up run out for 20.
Durham then are out, two points away from making the top three. At the moment it feels like a massive disappointment but considering that before a match was played it seemed incredibly unlikely the team would be anywhere near this position. Keaton Jennings was playing his first season as a one day opener and as captain, Jack Burnham was injured on the eve of the tournament, most of the middle order were either struggling for form or had very little List A experience and the bowling unit was threadbare. In the end the one day cup this year has revitalised the Durham careers of Michael Richardson and Graham Clark and seen James Weighell, George Harding and Cameron Steel show moments of huge promise. Jennings finished as the top scorer in the north group with 460 runs at 57 with Richardson also scoring 424 runs at 70. Weighell was also the top wicket taker in the north group with his 18 wickets at 23. Durham now need to pick themselves up for the next run of County Championship fixtures and looking ahead to the t20 blast, there should be a lot more confidence that this team can overturn the odds and make it to finals day.