IT HAS been remarked upon in some quarters that Durham’s season is doing a fine job of mimicking Sunderland’s footballing exploits of last season, with a relegation scrap and a most unexpected cup run.
While cheesy chips in St John’s Wood may be even harder to locate that they were on Wembley Way, the win over Nottinghamshire means that the equivalent of the ‘Miracles do happen Gus’ banner may not be needed just yet.
Indeed such have the slim pickings been this year, it seems like an age since there was quite such a positive week.
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At the half way stage of the quarter final at Headingley, it looked for all the world as if Durham had once again conspired to throw away a promising position just at the vital moment, as they slumped from 178/4 to 237 all out in the blink of an eye.
It had almost seemed too good to be true after Mark Stoneman finally returned to commanding one day form with a patient 102 but the lower order shambles which followed against the competitions form side seemed to promise only a grim journey back up the A1 well ahead of schedule.
Yet in keeping with the faintly ludicrous win at Headingley in the T20, Durham suddenly found the composure the squeeze Yorkshire’s middle order into uncharacteristic errors.
Paul Collingwood’s white ball bowling has arguably never been better in his illustrious career and his miserly spell, which included a ludicrous swinging delivery to dismiss Tim Bresnan, was the crowning glory.
Chris Rushworth and John Hastings too struck at crucial times and it was the latter’s two dismissals in two balls which gave Durham some sense of momentum.
It also means that the Gareth Breese farewell tour can carry on for at least one more game, with a glorious class off-spinners dismissal of Andrew Gale being stumped after some smart work from Phil Mustard an undoubted highlight.
Quite whether he’ll get to repeat the heroics of 2007s Friends Provident Trophy win remains to be seen but something of the magic of that era, be in Benkenstein, Gibson or even Chanderpaul may yet need to be found from somewhere.
That magic was at least partly in evidence when Durham finally managed to hang on to defeat Nottinghamshire in the Championship.
And that magic was initially provided once again by Paul Collingwood, whose inspirational bowling change of turning to himself, managed wreaked havoc on the Nottinghamshire middle order and then by registering his first Championship century in two years.
Yet again we’re left wondering just how bleak this season could have been had an inviting coaching option appeared.
But the match winning bowling performance came from the hitherto unknown Dubliner Peter Chase, whose second innings 5/64 broke the back of Nottinghamshire’s resistance just as bitter memories of the flattening Riverside pitch scuppering Durham’s hopes came flooding back.
Durham’s unnerving knack of finding quick bowlers, either locally or in this case from the fringes of the Irish national side may once again be their saviour.
If Chase can stay fit for prolonged periods, it may well be enough to earn him a contract for next season and certainly put him ahead of some of the physically fragile players with bigger reputations.
With Lancashire losing to Yorkshire, two wins from the final three games, one of which is against the already relegated and woefully out of their depth Northamptonshire, will surely be enough to keep them up.
Whether or not you believe in momentum as a defining influence in cricket or not, Durham certainly have it and a win on Saturday could put them on the brink of an unexpectedly successful, if not quite miraculous season.