Scotland hosted Sri Lanka for two 50 over matches at Beckenham on the 21st and 23rd of May. These matches were not given ODI status which meant many of Scotland’s County players were not able to be released and so Stuart Wittingham made his debut. Sri Lanka approached these matches as warm-ups for the Champions Trophy where they do not stand much hope of making the knock out stages.
The first match saw a superb win for Scotland as, even though it was not an ODI, any win against a full member is to be savoured. Sri Lanka made 287 from their 50 overs, bowled out with a ball to go. Opener Kusal Perera scored 57 and Dinesh Chandimal, who has been in poor form, reached 79 in 105 balls. Chamara Kapugedera, who is returning to the One Day side gave the innings some impetus with 71 from 50 balls but Scotland kept picking up wickets. Alistair Evans and Stuart Whittingham both took 3, Whittingham especially impressed on his debut as he removed Chandimal, Kapugedera and Kusal Mendis.
288 to win did not seem like it would be an easy chase for Scotland but Matthew Cross and Kyle Coetzer made it look easy. Coetzer, who was a late addition to the squad as he was initially going to be absent due to the birth of his child, scored 118 from 84 balls. Keeper and opener Matthew Cross also hit a century, ending on 106* from 123 balls. This opening stand of 201 meant the result was never in doubt and Scotland eventually won in 42.5 overs, 3 wickets down.
Rain ruined the opening round of the t20 tournament on Friday and also had its say in some of the North East Premier League matches on Saturday. Round 6 saw the clash of the two favourites South Northumberland and Chester-le-Street and also an early match of the season contender between Eppleton and Benwell Hill.
South Northumberland were the higher scorers in a draw with Chester-le-Street.
This match had the number of overs reduced by rain and South Northumberland were deducted 1 point for a slow over rate. A result was always going to be tough to force for either side after South North reached 200-7. Marcus North hit 46 and John Graham 54 in this innings. John Harrison’s 3-37 made him the pick of the bowlers for Chester-le-Street. In reply South North kept Chester-le-Street to 125-6. Simon Birtwisle took 3-12 and Stephen Humber was tight with 1-23 from 10 overs. With the bat Andrew Smith top scored with 42 and Durham 2nds captain Adam Hickey managed 22.
Eppleton and Benwell Hill tied.
In what was a remarkable finish Benwell Hill could not take advantage of South North and Chester-le-Street drawing. It looked like a win was on the cards when Eppleton were all out for 165. Overseas player Jandre Erasmus was by far the high scorer with 88. Max Williamson continues to impress with his bowling as he took 4-49 from 15 overs with 5 maidens. Haseeb Azam and Anthony Hunter also took 3 wickets each. Benwell Hill’s success so far this season has largely been down to Kyle Coetzer but as he was away with Scotland the side ended up being bowled out for 165, created a tie. Adan Heather top scored with 61 and Peter Halliday got 30. With Benwell Hill on 163-8, needing three runs to win Halliday was bowled by Craig Scurr. Last man Anthony Hunter was then runout going for the winning run by Joseph Coyne. Craig Scurr was the pick of the bowlers as he took 4-41.
County Championship. Glamorgan v Durham at Swansea. May 26-29.
The last time Durham played Glamorgan in the County Championship was back in 2004, the last time Durham were in Division 2. The match, which was played at Cardiff was the first class debut of Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer and saw Marcus North hit a double hundred in a draw, Coetzer and North are now opposing captains in the North East Premier League. Glamorgan, as a club, are a warning to Durham. From a region that the central authority has no love for, with a white elephant Test ground which has left the club in a tough financial position. The parallels are clear and now Durham are also in Division 2. When the County Championship is inevitably reformed after 2020 it feels as though Glamorgan will be one of the clubs placed in a Division 3, or reduced to minor county status. Durham cannot share the same fate but when the two sides meet this week it will provide a vision of what cricket in the North East could deteriorate to over the next decade.
On an equally depressing note, Durham are without Graham Onions for this match and so are will need Chris Rushworth to find his form again. This season it has surprisingly been the bowling that has let Durham down more than the batting so there will need to be an improvement soon. The batting lineup will probably not chance from the debacle at Hove as Ryan Pringle, who was most at risk of losing his place, was one of the few to show any resistance. If there is to be a chance, aside from Barry McCarthy in for Onions, it could be that George Harding comes in as a specialist spinner but this is unlikely. McCarthy though is finally back from international duty with Ireland and will need to hit the ground running as he looks to assert his position in the pecking order above James Weighell and the injured Brydon Carse.
Durham embarrassed themselves at Hove in their first championship match since the end of the One Day Cup break. Losing by an innings and 177 runs does not flatter Sussex as their bowling and the record breaking 376 run partnership between Luke Wells and Stiaan van Zyl made sure of a thrashing. Durham have the excuse of losing Graham Onions to injury after bowling just 10 overs in the first innings, this loss exacerbated the problems the side faces without an effective spinner.
On the first morning both sides seemed content at the toss. On a sunny day Paul Collingwood chose to have a toss in an attempt to bat first but when Luke Wright won it he put Durham in anyway. On the face of it this seemed an odd decision but was proven to be correct as Durham could only manage one partnership of more than 100 in the innings, Ryan Pringle and Paul Coughlin the only notable contributors with 50s as the side were all out for 287. The main damage was done in a spell before Lunch where Durham lost Cameron Steel, Stephen Cook and Paul Collingwood for just 18 runs and in just four overs. When Graham Onions gave Harry Finch a golden duck before the end of play on Day 1 it felt as though the game was still on.
County Championship. Sussex v Durham at Hove. May 21-24.
Durham travel to Hove off the back of a bitterly disappointing end to the One Day Cup and will need to pick themselves up quickly to have any chance of success in the County Championship this year. A big win is required to make the chances of promotion seem less hopeless. Thankfully for Durham the weather on the south coast seems like it will be fine throughout the four days and this could be a chance to catch up as rain looks to spoil a number of other matches around the country.
Sussex were the only club to vote against Durham gaining first class status and their position on the south coast generally makes them the antithesis of what is good about cricket in this country. The last time Durham visited Hove in the County Championship was in 2014 and proved to be a bore draw as both teams scored over 450. The last time the two sides met in the County Championship on any ground was in 2015 at Arundel, with Rushworth, Muchall and Hastings inspiring Durham to a comfortable win which played its role in relegated Sussex.
As usual Sussex were tipped by many in the media to push for promotion this season, an idea which seemed ridiculous based on their squad and the teams they would be coming up against. So far they have played two and lost two, taken apart by a Stephens and Northeast driven Kent and also brutalised by Nottinghamshire. Like another county in their part of the world, Sussex have gone the Kolpak route and have brought in Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese into their team as well as Vernon Philander as an overseas player. However, the two most exciting players in their squad are the Bermudan (and now England u19) international Delray Rawlins as well as the Bajan Jofra Archer. Rawlins has not quite found his feet at number three yet but is clearly a talented batsman but Archer has shown what he can do with the ball against Kent (7-67) and with the bat in both matches they have played.
For the first time this season rain affected multiple games as overs were reduced, but fortunately all managed to produce a result. The weekend also saw South Northumberland, Chester-le-Street and Stockton take part in the National Club Championship.
Benwell Hill beat Newcastle by 3 wickets.
In one of the rain affected games Benwell Hill did well to chase down 250 to win against Newcastle. Joshua Phillipe, Newcastle’s wicket keeper, was a standout with the bat as he made exactly 100. Benwell Hill relied on Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer’s second hundred in the competition as he made 116* from 87 balls. At this early stage Coetzer is the top run scorer in the competition and his side will do well to replace him when Scotland’s fixtures begin. Benwell Hill were however deducted one point for a slow over rate.
Durham Academy were the higher scorers in a draw against Whitburn.
A tight draw was the result as the bat dominated ball in this match. Ross Greenwell, who is having a very promising season made 188* for Durham and was backed up by Liam Trevaskis’ 45* as the side made 253-4. In reply Whitburn were steady, James Thompson made 65 from 118 balls and keeper Ross Carty 52 from 117. The scoring rate was reduced thanks to the bowling of Haidar Shafiq who took 2-40 in his 14 overs, producing 5 maidens. In the end Whitburn finished on 247-6.
With defeat to Lancashire in the final game Durham could not overcome the two-point penalty and reach the top three of the competition. Without the deduction Durham would have made it through on net run rate, which would have been an incredible achievement for a team depleted of depth and dependent on inexperience. From the last four games Durham were always going to need three wins and after victories against Northamptonshire and in spectacular fashion against Notts it looked like qualification was going to be achieved. In the end two chases against Worcestershire and Lancashire fell apart as the top three, who were superb throughout the competition, could not win every match on their own.
Looking at the four games individually, the win against Northamptonshire was achieved by a superb hundred from Keaton Jennings and an unbeaten fifty from Paul Collingwood. Durham were also effective with the ball even without Mark Wood, picking up wickets at regular intervals throughout the Northants innings. The game at Trent Bridge against Notts was perhaps the highlight of the tournament. With the spotlight on the match in the form of Sky’s television cameras and against the formidable seam attack of Pattinson, Ball and Broad, Durham’s victory was outstanding. Again the seamers stepped up with more wickets for James Weighell. The biggest worry though was the batting as Stephen Cook had been recalled by Cricket South Africa for fitness tests and an awards dinner. The top order therefore needed a rejig and Graham Clark, who had not been able to find any form at four was moved up to open. When Jake Ball took the wickets of Jennings and Richardson, Durham’s two form players, for a combined one run it seemed like the match was over. The top order had failed for the first time in the tournament and now Durham needed the out of form Clark and Steel to build a partnership to set up the lower order who had barely had a bat in the previous matches. With Notts’ seamers bowling extremely well and Clark not looking able to use the middle of his bat most watched on with astonishment as he, along with Cameron Steel survived to ten overs, then twenty overs, then thirty overs. In the end the pair put on 160 for the third wicket and this kept Durham in the game and allowed for Paul Collingwood, who had bowled superbly, to come up with a magnificent 73* (47) hitting the winning runs on the first ball of the final over.
When Ben Stokes was bought by the then named Rising Pune Supergiants for INR 14.5 crore (£1.7m), a record fee for a foreign player, it felt as though he was on a hiding to nothing in the tournament. Those of us who have watched Stokes develop into the world class player he is knew he was worth the investment but I doubt many expected him to universally win over the doubters and light up the competition as he has. Stokes has, in my view, been the major factor in turning Rising Pune Supergiant from the laughing stock they were last year (thanks to their ridiculous name and astrologically minded owner) into the first finalists at this years competition.
It was a low-key start for Stokes with his debut against Jos Buttler’s Mumbai, taking just one wicket (Kieron Pollard) and scoring a useful 21 which was overshadowed by Steve Smith’s 84. This match did begin a trend of victories for Pune over rivals Mumbai, a trend which continued in the semi-final despite Stokes’ absence. In the second game of the tournament against Kings XI Punjab Stokes was utilised at 4 and came in the 7th over, hitting three 6s and two 4s in a 32 ball 50. Pune entered a run of three defeats after the opening game, including the match against Punjab. In this run Stokes was consistently the most economical seamer for his side and it would be his performances that would drag the side up the table. Heading to the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore Pune needed to defend 161 on a ground famous for its runfests. Stokes took 3-18 from his 4 overs, getting the big wicket of Virat Kohli and bowling Shane Watson and Adam Milne. This was Stokes’ first man of the match award and, despite a minor injury which saw him miss two games, his form was to continue.
It remains tight at the top despite Benwell Hill falling to their first defeat of the season in this round of fixtures. At the bottom promoted Felling are struggling to convince they can stay up after a fourth straight defeat.
Eppleton were the higher scorers in a draw with Hetton Lyons.
A second consecutive losing draw for Hetton began with Eppleton putting on 250-9. Captain Dean Musther was the top scorer with 70 and Joseph Coyne also added 62 in what would turn out to be an excellent all round performance. For Hetton Josh Coughlin did not bowl, it is unclear why but one would suspect Durham are looking to manage his workload as the Second XI championship gets into full swing. In reply to 250 Hetton managed 206-8 with Matthew Whaley and Josh Coughlin scoring 45 and 42 respectively. Eppleton’s South African overseas player Jandre Erasmus was the pick of the bowlers, picking up 3 wickets for 44 runs, and Joseph Coyne also picked up three wickets for 57.
Chester-le-Street beat Felling by 100 runs.
Last year’s champions cruised to a comfortable win against the newly promoted side. George Harrison scored 47, Andrew Smith, 45 and wicket keeper Christopher Carter scored 43 as Chester-le-Street finished with 217-5. Five Chester-le-Street bowlers picked up two wickets in an allround team effort with the ball as Felling were bowled out for 117 in reply. Stephen Cantwell’s 4-2 and Ollie Barrett’s 7-2 were the best figures.
With four games played Durham have made a superb start as they look to overcome their two-point deduction and make the top three. In the preview to the one day cup it was stressed how Durham’s top order were going to have to be incredibly consistent to give the side any chance of winning consistently but they have exceeded expectations as Stephen Cook, Keaton Jennings and Michael Richardson are all in the overall top ten run scorers in the competition. As things stand Durham sit in fifth position on three points but with a very healthy net run rate. The equation is quite simple really, Durham are going to need to win three out of their last four games to give themselves a great chance of going through and as things stand the team would have to be confident of achieving that.
The first game of the tournament was a forgettable rain affected draw with Derbyshire, but did hint at what was to come for Durham. Cook and Jennings put on 47 for the first wicket before Jennings and Richardson batted through rain interruptions to bring the score to 168-2 when Jennings was stumped for 79. Michael Richardson, who has flourished at number three (an unforeseen consequence of Jack Burnham’s broken thumb), finished on 83* when the game was called off. This was Richardson’s highest List A score at the time. Hopefully this abandoned game will not come back to bite Durham as if it had been a win the table would look even brighter.
The next two games were seen as the two biggest tests in the group this year. Back to back away trips to Edgbaston and Headingley. However, Durham continued their batting form against Warwickshire, scoring 313-5 in a game reduced to 39 overs. An incredible score, anchored by a magnificent 139 (101) from captain Keaton Jennings as well as further contributions from Cook 60 (57), and Richardson 49 (44). The ability of the top three to begin each innings comfortably scoring at a run a ball has been very impressive and has underpinned their success. Now Durham had the chance to bowl for the first time in the tournament and Wood and Rushworth did the damage early, removing Porterfield, Hain and Bell in the first ten overs as Warwickshire struggled to keep the required run rate down. These early breakthroughs allowed for Paul Coughlin, Paul Collingwood and James Weighell to kill the game in the middle overs. Weighell in particular, on what was effectively his List A debut (as he did not get to bowl against Derbyshire), was able to pick up 5-57. Weighell bowled with good pace and a tight line, his form is a huge boost to Durham after he picked up a long-term injury last season and looks to break back into the Championship team.