George Dobell at New Road
Worcestershire 356 and 41 for 1 trail Durham 634 for 8 dec (Chanderpaul 201*, Di Venuto 113, Benkenstein 109, Plunkett 52) by 237 runs
A double-century from Shivnarine Chanderpaul ensured Durham will end the season as the only unbeaten side in the English first-class season.
Chanderpaul, who compiled the sixth double-century of his first-class career, provided the foundations for an enormous total of 634 for 8. It was the third highest score in Durham’s first-class history and the fourth highest total ever conceded by Worcestershire.
Chanderpaul advanced on his double with the sedate certainty of a glacier. Resuming on 100 overnight, the next century took him 81 overs and included just nine boundaries. There were times during the day when the nearby Malvern hills appeared to be moving faster.
It was a worthy innings, however. With conditions overcast and the bowlers performing substantially better than the previous day, batting was far from straightforward. Chanderpaul, therefore, contented himself with leaving almost everything outside off-stump, watchful defence against anything straight and a series of singles nudged off the hip. It was not the most thrilling innings.
But it was effective. Durham, wearied by their travails this season, were hoping not to put their bowlers through another work-out on the third-day and were content to simply occupy the crease. Whatever happens on the final day of the first-class season, they will set a record for the largest winning margin in the County Championship since the advent of two-division cricket.
Watching Chanderpaul – or Chandercrawl as one press-box wag labelled him – in such mood is a little like watching erosion in action. You know there is a powerful force in operation, but it moves so slowly it’s hard to appreciate. Certainly he is desperately difficult to dislodge when established: he’s now passed 150 11 times in first-class cricket and only three of those innings have ended in his dismissal.
The hosts bowled far better than the previous day, however. Durham were made to work much harder for their runs and limited Chanderpaul to just 28 runs in the first session.
Worcestershire picked up a couple of wickets, too. Shortly after Dale Benkenstein cut the boundary to bring up his century – his fifth of another profitable season – he was caught behind prodding at a good delivery on off stump, before Ian Blackwell was trapped in front as he played across a beauty that pitched on off and would have hit leg. Phil Mustard’s attempt to increase the pace with some lavish drives soon resulted in an edge to the keeper.
Still, there wasn’t much bite in the bowling. On a pitch where Gareth Andrew rated 300 as a good score, Worcestershire conceded 500 for the fifth time this season and came within an ace of seeing five bowlers concede 100 each for just the second time in the club’s history. For poor Richard Jones it was the fifth time in six completed innings that he has recorded such an unwelcome milestone.
Liam Plunkett produced Durham’s most fluent batting of the day. After a sketchy start, he drove fairly well and dealt with the short ball without discomfort. This was his third Championship half-century of the season and it took an outstanding diving catch at mid-wicket to dismiss him.
Resuming 278 behind on first innings, Worcestershire’s hopes of saving the game were boosted by the news that Steve Harmison may not bowl in the rest of the match as he has a swollen knee. He did take the field, however, and Durham will make a decision in the morning.
Daryl Mitchell continued his good form, crunching five fours in the 12 overs before stumps. Stephen Moore’s unhappy season ended with a whimper, however, after he missed a straight delivery from Blackwell. For a man with so much ability, and a man mentioned in England selection meetings only weeks ago, Moore’s Championship average of just 27 this season is hard to fathom and bitterly disappointing.
George Dobell is managing director of Spin Magazine