WORCESTERSHIRE may have fallen to defeat in their final LV= County Championship Division One match at Durham but victory was sealed 24 hours earlier.

The New Road side, who were 20/1 on to be relegated from the top-flight at the start of the campaign, pulled off the historic achievement of staying up.

Never before since the Championship was split into two in 2000 have the County managed to maintain their Division One status.

Having tried three times before with the likes of Kabir Ali, Gareth Batty, Graeme Hick, Stephen Moore, Steve Davies, Andy Bichel and even Steve Rhodes himself in the team, Worcestershire have always been relegated at the first time of asking.

Now, with a new breed which includes academy products Matt Pardoe, Alexei Kervezee and captain Daryl Mitchell added to the experienced heads of Vikram Solanki and the ever-green Alan Richardson, Rhodes’ unheralded side can look forward to mixing it in Division One again next season.

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” said director of cricket Rhodes, despite seeing his team lose by 151 runs at Chester le Street.

“Last season we were tipped to finish bottom of Division Two and we were odds-on to be bottom of Division One — it is great to prove people wrong.

“We always knew that this year was going to be tough and, after losing our first six games, to achieve the goal we set out at the start of the season is massive.”

The County resumed the final day against Durham on 65-2 and were bowled out shortly after lunch for 213.

But the game saw Richardson finish as Division One’s top wicket-taker with 73, while all-rounder Gareth An-drew completed his first 50-wicket season.

The County, however, only had one batsman to top 1,000 runs in Solanki and Rhodes praised the trio for their efforts.

“Those three in particular have had tremendous seasons,” the Worcestershire chief said.

“Others have chipped in with valuable contributions but they have been the mainstay of what we have done this year.”

Despite losing 11 Championship games, Worcestershire won four, including a 10-wicket thrashing of champions Lancashire.

“There are a couple of things we want to improve for next year and if we manage to do that then hopefully we can finish even higher than seventh,” added Rho-des, who rates keeping Worcestershire in Division One as one of the finest achievements in his 30-year cricket career.

“We are going to enjoy this moment, it is tough on Yorkshire and Hampshire, but that just means we have survived.

“We have won a few matches this season and that has been key.”