May 022013

This should have been a feel-good story about Graeme Swann after the England off-spinner added an heroic half-century to a successful fitness test on his surgically repaired elbow. Yet it all went disastrously wrong – for him and especially for his county – as Durham defied sleep deprivation to knock off a target of 183 and win in an hour and a half with 16 balls to spare.

Phil Mustard led their charge with 72 off 54 balls after he and Mark Stoneman had plundered 125 from only 71 deliveries in a rollicking opening stand, neither showing any ill-effects from a night when a 1.30am (false) fire alarm was followed by a genuine emergency an hour later and the evacuation of their hotel. Mustard slept through both and had to be woken by a team-mate before the Durham party relocated to a nearby hotel as dawn was about to break.

Swann did take four wickets, but any satisfaction was tarnished by a second defeat in three matches for Notting-hamshire, whose title hopes suddenly look unconvincing. Both defeats were at Trent Bridge, where they had not lost their first two matches since 1988.

It took the shine, too, off Swann’s pain-defying efforts with the bat earlier in the day, when his survival for 103 minutes – and his first Champion-ship half-century for five seasons – looked to be enough to ensure that Michael Lumb’s 123 would save the match for Nottinghamshire, who began the day five down for 145, six runs shy of making Durham bat again.

But after Luke Fletcher, the nightwatchman, lasted more than an hour, Notts batsmen managed to consume vital time, culminating in Swann’s splendid defiance, during which he was treated for injuries (minor, thankfully) to calf, forearm and head (courtesy of Graham Onions).

Swann, whose important right elbow came through 41 overs, threw his head back and waved his bat in annoyance – possibly at the cost of a disciplinary penalty – when finally out leg-before to Scott Borthwick but by then the hosts were confident Durham did not have enough time to win. Yet no Notts bowler, Swann included, was remotely tidy enough to halt Durham’s boldness and they have some embarrassing analyses to review.

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