For the second game in a row Durham lost a Championship match in the final over. In reality Northants were the better team for most of the game and, while rain almost caused a draw, Durham were deserved losers. There were positives from the match however, with Rushworth, Onions, Weighell and Carse injured, Paul Coughlin stepped up brilliantly as he recorded his first five wicket haul in the 1st innings and got another in the 2nd. A further positive was Cameron Steel’s batting who hit his first century for Durham.
The game was lost on the first day as Northants bowled Durham out for 166. The returning Michael Richardson top scored with 27 but no one could manage to put together a significant partnership. Nathan Buck, cheered on by his own supporters section, took 6-34 in that innings. Durham made a positive start with the ball as Rob Newton, Alex Wakely, Richard Keogh and Chesney Hughes all fell cheaply and Northants were reeling at 67-4. Opener Max Holden was also dropped several times in this period of the game as Coughlin and McCarthy looked extremely threatening.
Holden would punish Durham for not taking him early as he was involved in a 98 run partnership with Adam Rossington and a 162 run partnership with Josh Cobb, who was making his return to red ball cricket. Cobb was eventually dismissed by Coughlin for 96 and Holden by Collingwood for 124. It was these innings that were the difference in the match as Northants 338 gave them a huge lead of 172.
What Durham needed to do was bat out day 3 and hope that the rain forecast on day 4 would make a draw inevitable. To be honest, with the pessimistic feeling around the club at the moment, it felt that Durham would collapse again and it would all be over very quickly. Jennings, who has not managed a significant score since Durham were knocked out of the one day cup fell for 27 but the out of form Stephen Cook did manage 42. Cook will not be at the club much longer and as it stands his spell has been quite disappointing. Steel was the star of day 3 as he ground out a score of 128 from 227 balls and Paul Collingwood scored 54 from 130 balls. These gritty innings gave Durham a great chance of a draw. Both Steel and Collingwood looked in good touch, the main scare came when Collingwood was bowled by Rory Kleinveldt, only for the bails to not fall off. When Gavin Main was out at the end of the day Durham finished on 376, leaving Northants 205 to win from whatever remained of the match.
On the final day, the rain came down hard and as the hours went by it did not seem like there would be any play. In the end, the umpires managed to get the teams back out although at several points rain fell and threatened to end it, but the umpires stayed on. Northants then needed 205 from 39 overs, and Durham 10 wickets. Rob Newton and Alex Wakely were the main contributors for Northants with top order 50s but Durham took wickets continuously. Going into the last 2 overs the situation was 11 runs for Northants or 5 wickets for Durham. McCarthy’s over went for 8 runs but he had Hughes caught with the penultimate ball. Coughlin then had to prevent Rossington and Cobb getting three from the last over. His first ball was a wide but then he had Rossington caught behind. Then a dot ball. Then a single for new batsman Buck. With the scores tied Cobb was out caught on the fourth ball. All of a sudden 8 down with two tailenders in there seemed a chance of a remarkable tie, but as Buck played and missed, the batsman ran through for a bye.
Another tough defeat for Durham but a win had always seemed unlikely given form and injuries. Durham can take heart from Coughlin and Steel, as well as the fact they dragged the game into the last over.