BRILLIANT Ben Stokes bludgeoned Durham to a Lord’s final with a magnificent innings at the Emirates ICG on Saturday.
The England all-rounder was in irresistible form in the Royal London Cup semi-final as he battered Nottinghamshire’s bowlers for a mighty 164 – the club’s highest individual one-day score, beating his own record of 150 set against Warwickshire in 2011.
The stunning knock came in just over two hours off 113 balls and included 18 fours and four huge sixes and was only brought to an end in the last ball of the 49th over when he was caught on the boundary going for another big hit.
That effort helped Durham to their biggest ever one-day total of 353 for eight.
And when Michael Lumb and Steven Mullaney went cheaply at the top of the Notts’ order it looked as though Durham might coast to their first one day final since 2007.
There was stubborn resistance from the visitors’ middle order, though, which meant they were still just in touch with the Durham run-rate as the power play arrived in the 35th over of the 50.
Notts were given hope partially from England’s Samit Patel but primarily from centurion James Taylor.
Patel brought up a quick-fire 50 with a six but was caught by Phil Mustard off Gareth Breese from the very next ball.
Taylor though proved a stayer, reaching 114 because he was last man out as Notts ended their innings on 270 – 83 runs shy of Durham’s total – in the 46th over.
The difference between the two sides proved to be over the course of the power plays – Durham scored at an average of 11.4 runs in the five overs, progressing from 179-3 to 236-4; Notts entered the power-play 186-5 but emerged from it 218-8.
Taylor was partially to blame for the collapse, involved in three run-outs. But it was always a huge ask for the Outlaws after Durham had might light of difficult conditions to post such a daunting target.
The home side had lost the toss and were put in.
Openers Mark Stoneman and Phil Mustard – who had taken a pain-killing injection in order to play – gave Durham a solid platform, bringing up the 50 in eight overs.
And when the home side lost three wickets relatively quickly, Mustard stood firm and built a century partnership with Stokes, before a rush of blood from the wicket-keeper saw him run out 11 short of what would have been a deserved century.
It was, nevertheless, a record fourth-wicket stand for Durham and after that, Stokes raced on, aided by quick-scoring cameos from Paul Collingwood and John Hastings.
There was one escape for Stokes, though, when wicket-keeper Chris Read dropped him when he had made just 12 runs.
Notts made a fist of it, Taylor scoring 100 runs off 100 balls, but it always looked a daunting target.
And Durham’s bowlers and fielders did a commendable job and stuck to their task when Notts were making inroads.
Veteran Gareth Breese shone, the 38-year-old taking 3-53 in his last game at the Riverside.
Chris Rushworth also took three wickets but perhaps fittingly, last man out Taylor, fell to the bowling of Stokes.