|Specsavers County Championship Division Two, New Road (day four):|
|Worcestershire 335 & 242-3 dec: Mitchell 123*, Rhodes 61*, Fell 47|
|Durham 208: Clark 60; Leach 3-30 & 232: Clark 62; Ashwin 5-95, Leach 3-32|
|Worcestershire (22 pts) beat Durham (4 pts) by 137 runs|
Worcestershire sealed the County Championship Division Two title in the final session of the 2017 season as they finally beat Durham by 137 runs.
Daryl Mitchell hit his seventh century of the summer, 123 not out, backed by an unbeaten 51 from George Rhodes as the hosts added 85 to declare on 242-3.
That set Durham a notional 370 to win at New Road, but they fell well short.
Rivals Nottinghamshire’s failure to win at Hove would have sealed the title too but Durham were bowled out for 232.
India Test spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claimed figures of 5-95, taking his tally to 20 in four matches.
Home skipper Joe Leach weighed in with 3-32, his second three-wicket haul of the match, to finish on a career-best 69 victims for the season.
Coming on top of winning promotion 24 hours earlier, Leach’s men clocked up their ninth win in 14 games this season to finish 16 points clear of second-placed Notts, whose draw with Sussex at Hove earned them the second promotion place by five points from Northamptonshire.
It was also their first Championship win in 14 years over Durham, who had Lancashire-bound duo Graham Onions and Keaton Jennings making their farewell appearance.
Worcestershire’s two captains fantastic
Worcestershire’s sixth promotion in 15 seasons is the first time they have actually lifted the Division Two title since 2003 – when current director of cricket Steve Rhodes was still a player.
This latest success was again a triumph for Rhodes, who made the decision to change captains a year ago as both new skipper Leach and Mitchell, the man he replaced, have had inspirational seasons.
Leach’s 69 wickets made him Division Two’s top wicket-taker, while Mitchell’s season’s run haul of 1,266 in 14 matches made him the second-leading run scorer in Division Two behind Sussex’s Luke Wells (1,292).
Mitchell’s seventh Championship century in 14 matches this summer gave him a season’s average of 55.04.
That is bettered only by his 1,334 runs in 16 matches three years ago, when he batted in one innings more, for an average of 58.00.
Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes told BBC Hereford & Worcester:
“It’s great to go up as champions. I can’t take anything away from what the players have done and what Joe Leach has done. It has been an amazing effort to beat another nine teams in the league.
“There’s a lot of very strong sides out there with ex-international players so I’m proud of them all, the home-grown talent and the overseas lads – Nathan Lyon, John Hastings and Ashwin.
“The players have practised hard, developed skills, and made mistakes, but you learn from things like that and now it’s bearing fruit.
“It is going to be a real tough job in Division One but they know that. And I know they feel they are a bit better equipped than last time.”
Durham batsman Paul Collingwood told BBC Radio Newcastle:
“Worcestershire have deserved the Championship. They have been very consistent throughout the season as most champions are.
“They know the home conditions. They have been very good here. Another very good performance put us under a lot of pressure.
“It’s been tough for us because we lost some good players and I didn’t foresee that. I didn’t think players would think they had to leave to further their careers. This county has tried everything to keep the players that have left and that is disappointing.
“We’ve been in the first division ever since the two-division split and for the players to then feel they need to be playing first division cricket, that really does hurt you.”
BBC Radio Newcastle’s Martin Emmerson:
“Crippled by ECB sanctions and points deductions, Durham were always going to struggle to compete this season. But who would have thought, nearly a year after they were relegated, they would have a week like this, with key players Keaton Jennings, Paul Coughlin and Graham Onions leaving?
“While Onions wanted a two-year deal – and I think he should have been given one – Coughlin and Jennings wanted first division cricket.
“The bright spots this season have certainly been Paul Collingwood’s form in all formats. He says he will sign a new contract for at least one more year next season when he will turn 42.
“Cameron Steel, with nearly 1000 championship runs in his first season (including a double hundred)- has also been excellent, while Graham Clark has shown the sort of maturity with the bat the coaches believed he would.”
Source: BBC Here