Hampshire relegated after farewell century from Durham’s Mark Stoneman
It was a deeply emotional day at the Ageas Bowl as were relegated to the second division on the last day of the season and Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick marked their final appearances for Durham by scoring the match-winning runs.
It was as if the players of Hampshire and Durham did not want to be the only places to feel joy and anguish at the end of the campaign.
Durham, challenged to score 296 in a minimum of 78 overs, cantered home with six wickets and a handful of overs to spare. In the second half of the summer it has been Hampshire’s inability to take 20 wickets that has wounded them and they never looked close to bowling out a resolute side.
Hampshire’s director of cricket, Giles White, looked close to tears afterwards when he said: “We were quite optimistic today. The attitude has been fantastic over the past couple of months and with a bit of luck we might have got over the line today, but credit to the two batsmen. Stoneman and Borthwick played with a lot of skill and there was not much luck for us.”
Looking back on the season in general, he added: “The dressing room is very disappointed and deflated. It’s very tough on the players. They’ve had a pretty tough year. It’s been exhausting for them. It would have been nice to get a result along the way to take the pressure off.
“We’ll let the dust settle and go again. We narrowly missed out on staying up. The players really pulled together. The team is very tight and deserved to get something out of the season. Staying up would have been a great effort from everyone, so it’s very disappointing we end up in this situation.”
Borthwick (88), who put on 162 for the second wicket with Stoneman (137) to build on the 10 wickets taken in this match by Ryan Pringle, also had that choking feeling. “It was a bit emotional,” he said.
“I knew it would be, especially if we won and sung the team song. It’s been a fantastic game of cricket for four days. It was a nice send-off. We needed a good partnership and it was good that it was me and Mark doing it. It was a nice way to finish my career with Durham.
“I’m sad because I’m leaving the club I have loved and played for since the age of 10. It’s not just team-mates that I’m leaving but my best mates, and even the coaching staff are great friends. That said, I have a new challenge [at Surrey] and it’s really exciting.”
The great consolation for Hampshire, in the brilliant autumn sunshine, was that there were so many talented young players on view. At various times in this match Brad Wheal, Mason Crane and Lewis McManus have all looked outstanding prospects, promising richer times for the club. Tom Alsop, though he had a quieter game, can be included in that company. And, though older, James Vince and Liam Dawson are still young men.
White added: “We’ve got four really young players and we decided to go that route. We want to bring through our own players and surround them with high quality players. Those four are a major positive. And if the story had been different they may not have played as much.”
Durham stay up. But money is tight at Chester-le-Street and players are leaving. Of these two sides it might be argued that Durham have the less certain future.