Durham have regained the LV= County Championship after storming to a 10th win of the season by beating Nottinghamshire by eight wickets.
The Chester-le-Street club have only been a first-class county for 21 years and this success comes after they became back-to-back champions in 2008 and 09 to underline their strength in the four-day format of the game.
Expertly led by Paul Collingwood, the ex-England man has been the perfect figure head in the north east for a side bursting with a youthful exuberance which is backed up by a solid experienced core. Bowlers Chris Rushworth and Graham Onions have both taken over 50 wickets at an average of around 20 while Ben Stokes has taken 40 wickets and scored 563 runs.
Fellow all-rounder Scott Borthwick has also been key with the spinner taking 26 wickets and being the top run-scorer, 15 runs shy of 1,000 with a game still to play.
However, the 2013 season has been far from straight forward with head coach Geoff Cook suffering a heart attack in June which he later revealed he was just 60 seconds away from death. The leader returned to his position last month to give the team a boost into the final stages of the campaign.
A series of England call-ups for Onions and Stokes has also disrupted the champions as they have chopped and changed while managing to maintain their form, a trait which has set them apart from the rest of the counties.
The crucial stage of the season came late last month when they defeated second place Yorkshire at Scarborough to move clear of their closest rivals.
Durham knew they had to score 250 runs, bowl Nottinghamshire out in under 110 overs in the penultimate fixture to lift the title and that they did so in convincing fashion.
After losing the toss and being forced to bowl the hosts dismissed the visitors for a dismal 78 before Durham flopped to 74-6. Then captain Collingwood and wicket keeper Phil Mustard came to the crease and rescued the innings after eventually being bowled out for 256, largely thanks to the skippers unbeaten 88.
The weather did have it’s say with it forcing the players off the field on and off throughout the two-and-a-half days. However, Durham had their tales up and Onions, Stokes and Rushworth took eight wickets between them in the second innings as the visitors were all out for 246, setting a victory target of 69 at Chester-le-Street.
Only one over could be bowled in the final innings as day two drew to a close with the hosts on 7-0. Rain delayed the celebrations but the home crowd didn’t have to wait long as an unbeaten 35 from the impressive Mark Stoneman guided Durham to a third title in just six seasons.