Durham end on a high
Win not enough for title, Worcestershire lose but still escape drop
Last Updated: September 15, 2011 3:50pm
Blackwell: three wickets of final day of the season
Ian Blackwell and Scott Borthwick spun Durham to a 151-run victory over Worcestershire on the final afternoon - a result that was of limited significance for either side.
Events elsewhere on the previous day ruled Durham out of the title race, while Worcestershire already knew their safety was assured.
The Pears resumed on the fourth morning at 65-2 in pursuit of a victory target of 365 but were never in contention.
Left-arm spinner Blackwell (3-67) and leg-spinner Borthwick (3-25), who made his England one-day debut in August, ran through the visitors' line-up to ensure the match finished in early afternoon.
They encountered little in the way of resistance, Moeen Ali's 38 being the top score as Worcestershire were all out for 213.
Durham's 21-point haul for their eighth win of the season is likely to mean a third-place finish in Division One - although they claim second if Lancashire lose to Somerset.
Worcestershire, whose 11 defeats is almost twice as many as any other county in the top-flight, end up third bottom - just above the relegated duo of Yorkshire and Hampshire.
Durham saw their faint title hopes shattered on day three against Worcestershire as Warwickshire collected enough bonus points in their match at Hampshire to make it mathematically impossible for the North East county to claim a third Division One title.
While the news from Southampton came as a huge blow to Durham, it was met with celebration by opponents Worcestershire, who saw their Division One status assured by Hampshire's inability to secure five batting points.
Durham remain on course to finish the season on a high, however, as Worcestershire ended the penultimate day on 65-2 in pursuit of their 365 victory target.
Resuming day three on 51-0, Durham batsmen Michael Di Venuto (55), Michael Stoneman (75), Dale Benkenstein (63) and Ian Blackwell (59) all made half-centuries to set Worcestershire a difficult run chase.
Pears paceman Alan Richardson recorded the same figures as in the first innings, 3-46, to finish with 73 wickets for the season, while Gareth Andrew reached 50 when he pinned Benkenstein lbw.
In pursuit, Worcestershire lost opener Daryl Mitchell (35) and this summer's leading run-scorer Vikram Solanki (0) in the same Graham Onions over shortly before the close.
Worcestershire missed the chance to guarantee their safety in Division One after suffering a batting collapse on day two against Durham at Chester-le-Street.
The Pears began the day on 21-1 in their first innings knowing their top-flight safety would be secured by reaching 300 - and thereby picking up three of the five batting bonus points on offer.
James Cameron (74) and Vikram Solanki extended their second-wicket stand to 138 and, at 255-3 in mid-afternoon, Worcestershire were cruising towards their aim.
But the second new ball prompted a spectacular reversal in fortune, Solanki edged behind off Callum Thorp (4-52) for 124, his third century of the season, during a collapse to 288 all out.
Durham openers Will Smith (29no) and Michael Di Venuto (14no) guided the hosts to 51-0 in their second innings by the close, a lead of 27.
Worcestershire will stay up if they avoid defeat but, should they lose, Hampshire could then overtake them if they take maximum batting bonus points and claim victory over Warwickshire at the Rose Bowl.
Durham's slim title hopes remain alive - they must secure victory and hope Warwickshire and Lancashire, who are playing Somerset at Taunton, both slip up.
Worcestershire made virtually certain of Division One safety on day one of their LV= County Championship match as Durham's own title hopes wilted.
With the umpires electing to dispense with the bails such was the strength of the wind at Chester-le-Street, the performance of Alan Richardson was central to the renewed hopes of the visitors.
He claimed figures of 3-46 in 24.4 overs, taking the wickets of Mark Stoneman (15), Paul Collingwood (22) as well as Graham Onions (0) to become the first bowler in Division One to reach 70 wickets as Durham slumped from 146-2 to 264 all out.
Yorkshire's relegation was confirmed at 2.20pm, when Will Smith (66) was bowled by Kemar Roach (3-57) to give Worcestershire their first bowling point and ensure they stay above the Tykes.
Durham began the day 15 points adrift of top spot, but hopes of a dramatic climax to the season began to drain away as leaders Warwickshire piled on the runs against bottom club Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.
Smith's departure sparked Durham's decline, with only Dale Benkenstein (33) seemingly motivated among their batsmen to match his application.
In 10 overs Worcestershire replied with 21-1 and led Hampshire by 19 points with power to add. The likelihood of Hampshire gaining more than 19 from their match against Warwickshire looked very remote.