WHILE Durham’s LV= County Championship title hopes drifted away on the remnants of Hurricane Katia, Worcestershire made virtually certain of Division One safety on the first day at Chester-le-Street.

On a day when the strength of the wind forced the umpires to dispense with bails, the willingness of seamer Alan Richardson to keep running in was invaluable to the visitors.

By taking 3-46 in 24.4 overs he became the first bowler in Division One to 70 wickets and the pressure he applied played a big part in Durham’s slide from 146-2 to 264 all out.

In 10 overs Worcestershire replied with 21-1 and led bottom club Hampshire by 19 points. The likelihood of Hampshire gaining more than 19 from their match against leaders Warwickshire looked very remote with the Bears on 296-3 at last night’s close.

Yorkshire’s relegation was confirmed when Will Smith was bowled by Kemar Roach for 66 to give Worcestershire their first bowling point and ensure they stay above the Tykes.

Durham began the day 15 points adrift of top spot, but hopes of a dramatic climax to the season began to drain away as Warwickshire piled on the runs at the Rose Bowl.

Only Dale Benkenstein seemed motivated to match Smith’s application, but after the opener’s departure sparked the decline, Durham’s rock was in danger of running out of partners when he edged to second slip for 33.

Durham began by winning the toss for the 14th time in 16 Championship games and the Worcestershire bowlers would be grateful that the wind was blowing across the pitch.

Michael Di Venuto was lucky to survive two successive balls in the second over as Richardson had him dropped at gully on one by Gareth Andrew then a confident lbw appeal was rejected.

Di Venuto went on to make 33 before Andrew had him lbw, then Mark Stoneman shouldered arms and fell lbw to Richardson in the final over before lunch.

Smith scored only three in the first 75 minutes and Richardson had bowled 13 overs for 16 runs when Smith twice edged him for four on his way to a fifty. It took a superb in-swinging yorker from Roach to dislodge him.

Richardson had Paul Collingwood caught behind for 22 and when the gentle medium-pace of Daryl Mitchell was introduced for one over Ian Blackwell hit him for six and four before being pinned in front.

Roach took two more wickets to finish with 3-57 and when Worcestershire batted it was tough going for James Cameron and Mitchell, who edged Gra-ham Onions to Phil Mustard.