Durham won their first ever ECB 50+ County Championship title on Sunday 8th September with a 30 run victory over Essex in the final at Kibworth Cricket Club, Leicestershire. Durham, who made the final for the first time in the competitions 29 year history, beat a strong Essex side to
take the Brian Aspital Trophy back to the North East.
Essex won the toss and put Durham into bat on a green looking wicket that they expected to offer the bowlers some assistance early on. Durham openers Keith Smith and captain Tony Birbeck took advantage of the powerplay overs and hit a number of boundaries, Smith being particularly brutal to anything slightly off line from bowlers Joseph Pierre and Arshad Moghul as the opening partnership moved the score onto 62. It was the introduction of Tim Smith into the Essex bowling attack that brought rewards as he first bowled Birbeck before trapping Keith Smith LBW for 37 in successive overs. Nick Thompson kept up the momentum of the opening batsmen but Jim Mathewson became bogged down by some accurate bowling before being caught out by Tim Smith off Chris Gladwin’s bowling for 2. Thompson was joined by Gary Purcell and this pair moved the score past 100 before Purcell was bowled by Richard MacGregor for 14. The runs began to dry up and after Thompson was MacGregor’s second victim of the day, caught by David Lucy for 41, Ian Pont had Shaun McKenna out LBW for 14. Tim Smith then returned to the Essex bowling attack and removed both Andrew Fothergill and Steve Wilkinson, Smith finished with figures of 4-29 from his 9 overs. David Anderson and Keith Chapman added some late runs as Durham finished on 185-8 from their 45 overs.
The Essex innings started slowly and this was down to some disciplined bowling from the Durham openers Keith Chapman and David Stanwix. It was Chapman that made the breakthrough when he removed Neil Brathwaite for 10 before then having Kevin Grant, who had hit centuries in both the quarter and semi finals, caught by Steve Wilkinson for 16. Essex rebuilt through Chris Gladwin and Ian Pont but Gary Purcell broke that partnership having Pont trapped LBW for 19. Gladwin was joined by Essex captain Pete Rider but Gladwin was run out in a close decision by Keith Smith for 28, top scoring for Essex. Purcell soon bowled Shahed Iqbal for 1 before Essex regrouped again thanks to Rider and Joseph Pierre but the introduction of Durham captain Tony Birbeck and Nick Thompson that ultimately finished off the game for Essex. Thompson removed both Rider (15) and Pierre (16) before Birbeck took three wickets to dismiss Durham for 155 in the 43rd over.