County Championship. Kent vDurham at Canterbury. June 08-11.
Durham have a long trip to Kent in the Championship in what will be another tough match. Durham have nothing to play for whereas Kent are going for promotion. On the injury front Durham are still without Burnham, Onions, Weighell and Carse but Chris Rushworth returns to the squad. There is however a chance that Paul Coughlin will be rested despite his superb form. Kent’s only absence is James Harris who has been recalled from his loan back to Middlesex as Steven Finn has been called up to the England squad. Harris’s return means that Mitch Claydon is likely to come into the side and will face his former club. A new face to county cricket, Yasir Shah, comes into their squad instead of James Tredwell. The Pakistan international leg spinner should be an interesting challenge for Durham’s batting lineup and may tempt them into bringing in George Harding as an extra spinner if Kent prepare their pitch to suit their new overseas star.
For the second game in a row Durham lost a Championship match in the final over. In reality Northants were the better team for most of the game and, while rain almost caused a draw, Durham were deserved losers. There were positives from the match however, with Rushworth, Onions, Weighell and Carse injured, Paul Coughlin stepped up brilliantly as he recorded his first five wicket haul in the 1st innings and got another in the 2nd. A further positive was Cameron Steel’s batting who hit his first century for Durham.
The game was lost on the first day as Northants bowled Durham out for 166. The returning Michael Richardson top scored with 27 but no one could manage to put together a significant partnership. Nathan Buck, cheered on by his own supporters section, took 6-34 in that innings. Durham made a positive start with the ball as Rob Newton, Alex Wakely, Richard Keogh and Chesney Hughes all fell cheaply and Northants were reeling at 67-4. Opener Max Holden was also dropped several times in this period of the game as Coughlin and McCarthy looked extremely threatening.
Holden would punish Durham for not taking him early as he was involved in a 98 run partnership with Adam Rossington and a 162 run partnership with Josh Cobb, who was making his return to red ball cricket. Cobb was eventually dismissed by Coughlin for 96 and Holden by Collingwood for 124. It was these innings that were the difference in the match as Northants 338 gave them a huge lead of 172.
County Championship. Durham v Northants at Chester-le-Street. June 02-05.
As the County Championship finally returns to the North East the major talking points around the side are injuries and the hopelessness of the season. If it was not already clear before the match against Glamorgan it is now painfully obvious that there is nothing to play for but pride in the County Championship. Normally a return home after some tough away defeats might be the thing that could turn a season around but new injuries have hit any hopes of victor hard. Chris Rushworth misses out with a back problem and James Weighell will not be involved due to a shin issue. With Brydon Carse also out with some mystery injury and Graham Onions still not returned the seam attack, which is normally Durham’s strength will be incredibly inexperienced.
Northants also have some injury worries with Richard Levi not included in the squad after he was taken to hospital following a blow to the head in their last match. Ben Duckett is another absentee as he is away with the England Lions. Northants have played one match since block of one day cup games as they were heavily beaten by Worcestershire. The players Durham need to be wary of are captain Alex Wakely, Adam Rossington as well as Rory Kleinveldt. Considering the problems caused by tail enders so far this season a run a ball 82 from Kleinveldt seems nailed on.
With Durham already having nothing to play for in the County Championship the only salvation from the rest of the season will be a show of fight from the team. Therefore, the two back to back away losses to Sussex and Glamorgan are a depressing sign of a team struggling for form and motivation.
A small positive from the Glamorgan defeat was that the two sides produced an entertaining four days with some good cricket on both sides, the same could not be said for the disgrace at Hove. Nonetheless, it remains embarrassing for a side such as Durham to lose to Glamorgan and so far the signs for next season are grim. For Durham this match was thrown away in two key moments, firstly at the end of the first day, after getting to 342 in the 92nd over, and with Paul Collingwood beginning to accelerate on 127 it looked as though maximum batting points were on the horizon. This was when Durham fell to a farcical collapse. Needing 58 from 18 overs to get the batting points did not need the tail to bat with reckless abandon, and when Collingwood fell lbw there should have been a more measured approach. However Durham then lost the final four wickets (including Collingwood), in 7 balls for no runs. This meant Durham threw away two bonus points and gave Glamorgan hope of staying in the game.
The next day it seemed like Durham’s bowing was finally finding some form with wickets falling regularly. Paul Coughlin particularly impressed as he took four but Chris Rushworth and James Weighell also took three each. George Harding, on his Championship debut, bowled too many overs in the first innings and was quite expensive. Glamorgan’s innings was however the complete opposite of Durham’s farce. While the Welsh side fell to 233-6 (as opposed to Durham’s 342-6), there last four wickets put on 120 (as opposed to Durham’s 0). This meant that Glamorgan ended up with a lead of 11. It was however the final partnership between new captain Michael Hogan and Andrew Salter who put on 74 for the final wicket. Again Durham’s bowling showed its lack of ruthlessness and the runs scored by Glamorgan’s tail gave flashbacks to Luke Fletcher and James Pattinson in the opening game of the season.
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.
Durham’s first trip to Bristol in the County Championship since 2003 proved to be an incredibly frustrating affair. It was a slow pitch that did not offer much for the bowlers throughout the four days but Durham could not show their superiority with the ball. Like the Notts game the result was defined by fine margins. A 45 run 10th wicket partnership between David Payne and Chris Liddle took any hopes of a positive result away but Durham should really have ended Gloucestershire’s hopes on the third day after they took a 116 run lead.
On Friday, throughout all the County Championship fixtures, away teams rejecting the toss was commonplace due to overcast weather. Durham were no exception and after taking Cameron Bancroft’s wicket cheaply, Gloucestershire’s Australian overseas player, it looked as if the four man pace attack of Rushworth, Onions, Wood and Carse would prove too good. However the men in form Chris Dent and Will Tavare put on a frustrating partnership and the lack of penetration with the ball in these key moments would define Durham’s match. In the end in was Paul Collingwood, bringing himself on before lunch who made a double breakthrough. After lunch it was then Jennings who proved most effective with the ball, taking the wickets of Phil Mustard and Craig Miles in consecutive deliveries. Mark Wood toiled throughout the game and would end up taking just one wicket in both innings. He did show good pace and appears to be on the way back to full fitness but did not show his international class in the same way as James Pattinson did last week for Nottinghamshire. With Wood today called up in England’s Champions Trophy squad it seems the county will not see the best of him this season.
County Championship. Gloucestershire v Durham at Bristol. April 21-24.
It is rare that a game so early in the calendar can feel so vital, but with a reduced 14 game season and 45 points still to make up to break even Durham go to Bristol knowing they need not just to win, but put in a dominating performance. It is the first time that Durham have played a first class match at Bristol since 2003 when Gloucestershire won by 126 runs thanks to two Jonty Rhodes centuries. So long ago that Graham Onions had not yet made his debut and coach John Lewis was captain. That match also featured a 23-year-old Phil Mustard, and the Durham legend will now play against his home side for the first time as he will line up as captain for his new side Gloucestershire.
Mustard, who went on loan to the south west side at the back end of last season joined permanently following his contract expiry. The quality and experience he brings to the Division 2 stalwarts can be immediately seen by the fact he has been made captain with the absence of usual skipper Gareth Roderick. The colonel also seems to have found some form following his 72 last week against Leicestershire. Looking at the rest of the line-up there are less familiar faces for Durham fans. Cameron Bancroft stands out at the top of the order as he is a much talked about batsman from Western Australia and his 9 first class hundreds at 24 years old shows potential. Aside from him Will Tavare, nephew of Chris, is one to look out for with the bat as he is coming off a hundred against Leicestershire and in their warm up against Durham MCCU. With the ball Gloucestershire’s two best talents come in the form of right arm seamers Liam Norwell and Craig Miles. Norwell’s fine form is evidenced by his match figures of 10-99 in his sides innings victory over Leicestershire. I am sure that these two bowlers will be looking to learn from and outshine Durham’s Rushworth and Onions in this match.
Durham got the season off to a poor start as they were defeated at Chester-le-Street for the first time since September 2015. The gap of 89 points to Notts has deflated some of the early optimism about the chances of a promotion push but the reality is this was a game of fine margins and did not reveal much about how the squad will fare against the rest of the division.
Throughout the match, Durham faced the worst of the batting conditions, a floodlit first day and an overcast last session on day two which decided the result. Notts on the other hand made the most of the seamer friendly gloom and found themselves batting in bright sunshine throughout the second day. The other difference maker was the ability of Notts tail to pick up runs and a lack of ruthlessness from Durham’s seamers after taking three quick wickets at the end of the first day. In the preview, it was highlighted how in Notts’ victory over Derbyshire it was Pattinson and Broad who were the main contributors with the bat and this repeated itself with Luke Fletcher equalling is career best 92 as a night watchman and Pattinson scoring his second consecutive half century. If both of these tail enders had been dismissed for their average Notts would have had over 100 less runs on the board and Durham would have been favourites on the final day. Despite this, and perhaps most frustratingly for Durham, they were about an hour away from finding a draw in the match as the rain came down on Monday afternoon. If Durham are going to dominate against the rest of the division they will need Cook, Burnham and Richardson to provide greater support for Keaton Jennings, who continues be a run machine.