Scott Borthwick scored 87 and took career best figures of 5/38 as reigning One-Day Cup champions Durham beat Leicestershire by 146 runs at Grace Road.
Borthwick shared a second wicket stand of 145 with Mark Stoneman, who scored 98 to strengthen his claim for a place in the England Test squad.
Lewis Hill made 86 and Niall O’Brien 50 for Leicestershire, but Borthwick dismissed both and took the final four wickets of the innings for just 40 runs to bowl the home side out for 203. The result means Durham can still qualify for the quarter-finals with a win against Derbyshire on Monday, while Leicestershire are out of the competition with two left to play.
Without a win in five, Leicestershire knew their chances of making the quarter-finals were virtually non-existent regardless of what happened at Grace Road. The pressure was all on the visitors in the build up, with Durham needing to end a run of three consecutive defeats to stand a chance of progressing to the knockout stages.
And it was the champions who came out firing, with captain Stoneman leading the charge as Durham raced to an opening stand of fifty in just the seventh over before Phil Mustard couldn’t keep out an Ollie Freckinghamon delivery to fall for 12.
But that wicket brought the partnership of Stoneman and Borthwick, which threatened to take the game away from the hosts. Durham’s top order has picked up the habit of getting settled at the crease without pushing on to bigger scores, but with Adam Lyth’s England future looking increasingly uncertain, opener Stoneman played like a man eager to catch the eye of the national selectors.
Borthwick, who himself has been backed a future England number three, offered vital support to his batting partner, and together the Durham pair added 146 before Stoneman was dismissed two runs short of what would have been a well-deserved century. The leg spinner would eventually follow him back to the pavilion for 87.
The visitors began to accelerate once the partnership was broken, as each of Durham’s middle-order made healthy contributions. Scores of 31 for Graham Clarke and the 30s of Ryan Pringle and Calum MacLeod all came at better than a run a ball, while the dangerous John Hastings smashed 27 from just 11 balls to set Leicestershire 350 for victory.
Chasing their first win of the competition, the hosts lost Ned Eckersly and Angus Robson early on, as Durham’s attack of Hastings and Chris Rushworth kept the Leicestershire batsmen under wraps. Yet is was the medium pace of Gordon Muchall, bowling for only the second time since 2004, who took the wicket of Aadil Ali.
The fourth wicket partnership of Hill and O’Brien steadied the ship as Leicestershire raced to 148/3 from 24 overs, but once Borthwick had the latter caught behind, there was little resistance left for the side second bottom in Group A. Hill eventually fell to the same fate, as Borthwick’s leg spin became more and more threatening as the pitch wore down.
Rob Taylor and Liam Hurt put on 21, but Borthwick was quick to clean up the tail end. The England hopeful took the last four wickets of the match to finish with figures of 5-38, his best List A return.
Bowled out for 203, Leicestershire can wave goodbye to their hopes of a Lord’s appearance in September, while Durham can still dream of retaining their trophy for a few extra days at least.