It’s fair to say Northamptonshire have both scaled the heights and plumbed the depths in their visits to the north-east since Durham achieved first-class status 27 years ago.
In the former – happier – category was the first-ever Championship meeting between the sides at Stockton-on-Tees in May 1992. The finish was a genuine thriller but the match gripped spectators throughout.
David Ripley’s century plus some fine pace bowling from Curtly Ambrose and Paul Taylor saw Durham follow on – only for Dean Jones to dig in for a superbly defiant 157. Last out after nearly six hours at the crease, the Aussie looked to have saved the game as Northamptonshire were left to chase an improbable 92 off just nine overs to win. With no fielding restrictions, remember.
But no cause was ever lost with Allan Lamb in charge. Promoting himself to open, he and Alan Fordham set about Ian Botham, Simon ‘The Analyst’ Hughes and former County left-armer Simon Brown with a will, before Rob Bailey and David Capel took over. The target was eight runs from the final over, one off the final ball – and Bailey thumped the future Sir Ian over mid-off for a famous victory.
Four years later a rain-affected draw at Riverside was notable only for the first-class debut of a lad with a future in the game – a certain Paul Collingwood. Outstanding bowling displays from seamer Carl Greenidge and off-spinner Jason Brown set up Northamptonshire victories at Chester-le-Street in 2002 and 2003 respectively, but the aforementioned depths were well-and-truly plumbed when the County travelled up there in 2014 – their first visit in nine years.
Chris Rushworth harvested 15 wickets (9-52 in the first innings, 6-43 in the second) as the County were skittled for 83 and 90, lasting a not-so-grand total of 40 overs in the match, to lose by an innings and 219 runs in two days! Stuffings don’t come much more emphatic than that.
At the same ground in 2017 it looked as though a promising position had been squandered. Alex Wakely’s side led by 172 on first innings, on-loan opener Max Holden contributing a maiden Championship ton, but on the final day collapsed from 159-2 to 204-8 chasing 205 to win – Nathan Buck and Ben Sanderson scampering through for the decisive bye in steady rain with one ball remaining.
It was all rather more comfortable, fortunately, last season as the four-pronged attack of Sanderson, Buck, Luke Procter and Richard Gleeson laid the foundations for a seven-wicket victory inside two days.
Northamptonshire’s first-class matches in Durham may only date back to 1992 but it’s worth remembering the two sides enjoyed some excellent scraps in Minor Counties cricket between 1896 and 1904, Tom Horton taking his team to a variety of venues including Ashbrooke in Sunderland, Burnmoor, South Shields and the city of Durham itself. There, in Northamptonshire’s final summer before promotion, hall of famers George Thompson and Billy East bowled unchanged through both innings to secure a crushing win.
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V DURHAM
WON BY NORTHAMPTONSHIRE: 9
WON BY DURHAM: 3