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24-27 September 2008

Durham 500-8d bt Kent 225 & 204 by an innings & 71 runs
Points: Durham 22, Kent 3

Durham celebrate
Steve Harmison captured the final two wickets in Durham's triumph

Durham captured their first Division One title after wrapping up an innings victory over Kent, who were relegated.

They needed only 16 overs on the final morning to clinch the win but had to wait until late afternoon to be crowned champions when Notts lost to Hampshire.

Callum Thorp claimed a career-best 7-88 and England's Steve Harmison took 3-58 despite a cracked bone in his wrist.

Harmison said: "It is an unbelievable achievement. It is only 16 years as a first-class county... wow."

Expected to be fit for England's multi-million dollar Stanford clash in Antigua on 1 November, Harmison added: "There are some young lads up there who don't realise what sort of achievement they've just had."

Ashington-born Harmison ended a memorable season with 60 Championship wickets.

Acknowledging that he has not always reached his potential for his native county, he added: "This is my 12th season and I've probably had more bad years than good years, but this is just a great feeling.

"The Ashes [success in 2005] takes some beating. Because of the nature of the series win, it will always be the pinnacle.

"But behind that, I don't think there is a prouder moment than this in my career. It's very special."

Photos of the celebrations - BBC Wear

South African skipper Dale Benkenstein singled out Geoff Cook, director of cricket and a central plank of Durham's coaching team since 1991, for special mention.

"I decide things on the field but Geoff Cook is the real heart and soul of the club, and a lot of the success is due to the efforts he's put in over the last 20 years.

"We are the end product of a lot of hard work and it is unbelievably enjoyable with the group of players we've had."

Kent, who have been sent down for the first time in the nine seasons of the two-tier structure, resumed on 159-5 on Saturday morning, needing a further 116 to make Durham bat again.

Their hopes of salvaging a draw and having a chance of top flight survival rested with South Africans Justin Kemp and Ryan McLaren, who shared a century stand on Friday evening.

BBC Sport's Oliver Brett

But on a glorious morning in the south-east, they added only six more runs before Kemp's sliced drive was smartly caught low in the gully by skipper Dale Benkenstein.

McLaren completed a fifty that contained 10 fours, but when Yasir Arafat edged to second slip to become the seventh man out, Thorp was still on course to emulate former Durham favourite Ottis Gibson and take all 10 wickets.

Harmison, still able to operate at good pace from the Nackington Road End, got in on the act when James Tredwell offered no shot and lost his off-stump.

The paceman had the distinction of taking the final two wickets in two balls to seal the famous victory, Robbie Joseph prodding to second slip and Martin Saggers seeing his stumps splattered.

Coach Graham Ford said: "There's no question that we ran out of gas. The disappointments of not quite getting across the line to win the three one-day competitions took its toll too because winning trophies can be quite energising.

"Had we managed to win one competition, it might have provided the energy boost we needed to go on for the rest of the season."

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see also
Nottinghamshire v Hampshire
27 Sep 08 |  Counties
Somerset v Lancashire
27 Sep 08 |  Counties
Durham poised as Kent face drop
26 Sep 08 |  Counties
Durham buoyed by Di Venuto knock
25 Sep 08 |  Counties
Harmison gives Durham good start
24 Sep 08 |  Counties

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