BRAVE hearts, not tired limbs, won the day as Durham smashed their way to County Championship victory at Trent Bridge.
The visitors were on the streets of Nottingham until the early hours of yesterday morning as alarms rung out at their hotel.
It meant Paul Collingwood’s men could have at best mustered a couple of hours sleep, and when they were made to field for most part of the day by a beligerent home batting line-up you feared that a drab draw, with Durham holding up their end, was on the cards.
Not a bit of it.
It was the fire in Durham’s bellies and not their hotel, which rightly stole the headlines.
Having eventually managed to bowl the home side out for 333, Durham were set the task of chasing down 183 to win from just over 20 overs – a mean feat by T20 or one-day standards – but by County Championship ones almost unprecedented.
But explosive innings from Mark Stoneman (69 from 38 balls) and Phil Mustard (72 from 54 balls) set the away side on their way to a superb six-wicket success.
Both Stoneman and Mustard broke the previous record of 36 balls for the fastest championship half-century, reaching their 50s in 24 deliveries and 30 deliveries respectively.
And Mustard admitted afterwards that it was a day to remember.
“It’s one of the best innings or games I have ever been involved with for Durham,” he said. “It’s going to stick with me that one I think.
“We were never going to lose the game from there, but we just went out and showed what we could do.
“We were either going to be heroes or be nothing, and it turned out we were heroes.”
Mustard was quick to play tribute to the efforts of Stoneman who set the tempo for Durham early on.
He said: “Mark got us off to a flier, and all credit to him because it was exactly what we needed.
“I took the anchor role until we lost Mark, and then I took over.
“Whatever kind of ball or whatever they chucked at us, it went to the boundary.
“The way Mark hit their seamers was incredible. I have never seen anyone time it like that.”
Having resumed yesterday morning on 145-5 some dogged batting by Michael Lumb (123) and England’s Graeme Swann (50) helped the hosts set a total that they must have thought beyond Durham’s reach.
The visitors clearly didn’t share that view and got home with 16 deliveries to spare.