Cricket fans from the north-east may be among those booking corporate hospitality for the Natwest T20 blast finals day at Edgbaston on August 20th, after Durham reached the showpiece occasion.
The youngest county on the circuit defeated Gloucestershire by 19 runs at Bristol to ensure their trip to Birmingham and a chance to become England's Twenty20 champions for the first time.
Mark Stoneman, who made 61, put on 96 runs for the first wicket with Keaton Jennings to give the visitors the perfect start. They went on to make 180-5.
With England bowler Mark Wood sending down a stream of 90mph deliveries, Gloucestershire struggled in reply and were in deep trouble at 50-5 after nine overs.
At this point the game seemed over, but Jack Taylor produced an astonishing fightback with 80 off just 41 balls.
He was helped by an extraordinary bowling performance by Durham skipper Paul Collingwood, who managed to get taken out of the attack for bowling two beamers, which Taylor hit for six and four. He also hit the first free hit for six, but missed out on the second as legspinner Scott Borthwick completed the over. Collingwood's figures were none for 22 from three legitimate deliveries.
The former England batsman was able to laugh off the incident on a lunchtime visit to the Test Match special commentary box at the Kia Oval Test match today (August 11th), not least because when Taylor was eventually out, Gloucestershire's resistance faded and they were all out for 161 with an over to spare.
Whether Collingwood will be left holding the trophy on August 20th remains to be seen, but two of the other three sides playing at Edgbaston have now been confirmed.
Earlier this week, Northamptonshire secured their place with a seven-wicket victory over Nottinghamshire at Wantage Road. The visitors made only 133 in the face of a fine bowling performance, and despite losing big-hitting opener Richard Levi early on and slipping to 41-2, the home team were able to take charge thanks to Adam Rossington's unbeaten 67.
Speaking after the match, Northants captain Alex Wakely said: "We bowled brilliantly. We’ve talked about bowling hard lengths and we did that perfectly. The most pleasing thing throughout this run is that someone stood up for us - anyone can win us a game. I’m proud of what we achieved here. The club’s aim was to get to Final’s Day and now we want to win it."
Nottinghamshire will also swap the East Midlands for the West Midlands for a day, after securing their place with a quarter-final victory over Essex at Trent Bridge.
The home team made 162-7 in their 20 overs with 50 from Greg Smith, but Essex started well, with New Zealander Jesse Ryder hitting a rapid 47.
However, with Samit Patel producing his best T20 figures of 4-20, Essex lost all ten wickets for 58 to be dismissed for 123.
The final place will be decided tonight when Glamorgan host Yorkshire, with the visitors being strengthened by the inclusion of legspinner Adil Rashid after he was released from England's final Test squad.
By Keith Prowse