FOR the second successive match Durham suffered an agonising last-over defeat when they lost by two wickets at home to Northamptonshire yesterday.

With only around 30 people present to witness the drama at the end of a day which threatened to be a washout, the visitors scampered a bye to get home with one ball left.

Having suffered similar disappointment at Swansea, Durham have lost four of their five championship games and are now further adrift at the foot of division two than at the start of the season.

Coach Jon Lewis said: “We were well aware of the size of the points deduction, so that's not an excuse. The loss of personnel is a bigger factor. We are a bit light on battle-hardened campaigners and need to work on maintaining standards over four days.

“We got quite close to winning and it's tough to take, but some performances have been very encouraging. Cameron Steel is a better player than when he joined us, and Paul Coughlin's ten wickets in this match were a reward for the performances he has put in over the last few weeks.

“He's probably risking serious injury if we keep on bowling him into the ground, but he's standing up well and we have no-one else.

“When did we last go into a home match with only three seamers? I made five phone calls before the match enquiring about getting a bowler on loan.”

When told that Kent, who Durham face at Canterbury on Thursday, have just signed the world's top-ranked leg-spinner in Pakistan's Yasir Shah, Lewis joked: “Hopefully they will prepare a dry pitch to suit him and we won't need so many seamers.”

Although Chris Rushworth bowled indoors yesterday he is unlikely to be risked after his back trouble and the same applies to Graham Onions, who has had an injection.

James Weighell still has a shin injury, Brydon Carse has yet to bowl after his back injury and Usman Arshad needs match practice, which Lewis hopes he will get at the weekend. Jack Burnham is currently making his comeback with Northumberland.

“We have struggled to take 20 wickets so we left a bit more grass on this pitch,” said Lewis. “When you need to win there's no point having a flat pitch, but Northants' quartet of seamers had nearly 1,000 first-class wickets between them and our three had fewer than 100.”

Further evidence that everything is conspiring against Durham came from yesterday's weather. In any other circumstances the game would not have been completed because it was raining steadily for the last ten minutes.

Northants needed 161 with nine wickets standing at the outset, but no play was possible until 3.05 and tea was taken after 35 minutes when 56 had been added in nine overs.

That meant a further 105 were required from 33 overs, but only one over was bowled after the break before the rain returned.

The 5pm resumption favoured the NatWest T20 Blast holders against Durham's inexperienced attack, who were bravely led by Coughlin, who finished with match figures of ten for 133.

Rob Newton cut and pulled Gavin Main for two fours in the second over of the final chase to reach 50 but then miscued Coughlin to deep mid-on to end a stand of 123.

Alex Wakely, who had begun the day on 18 and raced to a 58-ball half-century before the break, continued to score at the required rate and had the target down to 47 when he was narrowly run out attempting a second run to Keaton Jennings at deep point.

Rob Keogh skied a return catch to Coughlin and Rory Kleinveldt holed out at long-off. But Barry McCarthy was denied a second wicket when, with 26 needed off four, Josh Cobb was dropped at long-on by Michael Richardson.

The last ball of the over soared over the same fielder for six and Cobb, the match-winner against Durham in last year's T20 final, had all but finished the job when he was caught at third man with two balls left.

With one needed, Ben Sanderson missed the next ball but was called for the run by Nathan Buck and wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter's shy at the stumps narrowly missed.