Worcestershire overcome Chris Rushworth five-for to win comfortably

Chris Rushworth in action Getty Images

Worcestershire 390 (Wessels 118, Whitely 72, Dell 61) and 84 for 5 (Rushworth 5-28) beat Durham 273 (Bancroft 70, Morris 6-53) and 197 (Tongue 5-37) by 5 wickets

The yo-yo team of County Championship cricket - relegated six times, promoted six times - are back in familiar territory as Division Two leaders after following up their victory at Leicester in the opening match of their red-ball season with the win that was theirs for the taking at the close of day three.

Chris Rushworth, still Durham's most potent weapon even in his testimonial year, provoked some serious jitters among those spectators not deterred by the serious drop in temperature after the first three days, single-handedly reducing Worcestershire to 55 for five in pursuit of their modest target of 81 to win.

With a new ball and heavy cloud cover, conditions were ideal for the 32-year-old seamer, whose swinging deliveries twice took two wickets in the same over. But Worcestershire, with their depth of batting, never seemed at serious risk of an embarrassing defeat and once Rushworth was given a breather after nine overs, Ross Whiteley and Ben Cox guided them to the finish line a half-hour or so before lunch.

There is a lot of ground to cover yet - and next week's clash with Lancashire at Old Trafford could be informative - but new first team coach Alex Gidman is allowing himself to be relatively optimistic, especially given that there is an extra promotion spot available this season.

"It will sound like an awful cliche to say that we are looking only at the next couple of games and trying to get as many points as we can," he said.

"But that's what we are aiming for and I do have a lot of faith and trust in this group. They are a very talented group of players. Some are very young but there are also some experienced players now and we can't now really hide behind the young and inexperienced tag that we've had in the past.

"We have a really good blend and I believe we have enough experienced players now to really help with the development of the younger players, perhaps bringing them on quicker than before, which hopefully gives us the chance to perform a bit more consistently and getting those performances that will give us a chance to achieve our goal."

The young player to the fore in this match was Josh Dell, the 21-year-old batsman whose debut 61 in the first innings was critical to giving Riki Wessels and Whiteley the platform to build the 117-run first-innings lead that put Worcestershire in control.

"Josh has come on a long way from this time last year and played a hugely important part in the victory," Gidman said. "That partnership of Dell and George Rhodes was absolutely crucial.

"He has had a tough learning curve. He was on the academy and played for England Under-19s and then did not make the step up that he should have. But he has learned and he has come back now looking a real good prospect."

Equally eye-catching was the contribution in the bowling attack of Charlie Morris, who is 26 now but after his long struggle to rebuild his action is playing in a way that winds back the clock a little to his early days. His seven wickets in this match followed eight at Leicester.

"It's almost like having a new bowler, a new member of the squad, having him available and bowling the way he has," Gidman added. "He had to iron a few things out but we knew what ability he has with the ball and those days are well behind him. It is all about looking for Charlie now."

Durham's prospects, meanwhile, are at the other extreme of the scale of expectations. This was their third defeat in three and a fifth in a row when the end of last season is tagged on. They have just 11 points and eight of those have been won by Rushworth and company, so it is easy to see where their problems lie.

"It was ideal conditions for me and if we'd had another 60 or 80 on the board here it might have been a different story," Rushworth said.

"Everyone knows where we need to improve and it is something we have been trying to change for a few years now but you can say everything off the field and have great plans but until things change on the pitch the results are going to stay the same.

"There were points in the game, the dropped catch (Whiteley on five before going on to make 72), two or three run-out opportunities, which might have changed things but you have to take them.

"In the second innings, though, we were not good enough with the bat, so we have got to do better."

Worcs 4th innings Partnerships

1st26DKH MitchellTC Fell
2nd0TC FellGH Rhodes
3rd16TC FellJJ Dell
4th0MH WesselsTC Fell
5th13RA WhiteleyTC Fell
6th29RA WhiteleyOB Cox