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.
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.
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.
With the County Championship feeling like the priority for Durham this season the upcoming block of eight one day matches seem like a pointless distraction. With the -2 start in the north group Durham will probably need to win six out of eight games to get the ten points required to get into the top three. Unlike previous years the competition will now feature two playoffs instead of eight quarter finals, likely a trial run for the format of the proposed regional t20 tournament, so just three teams will make it through the group. If winning six out of eight games was not daunting enough a task Durham go into this year’s competition with a far smaller squad and a couple of key absentees.
Last year Durham made sure to use their squad depth in the one day cup. Phil Mustard, Jamie Harrison and Callum MacLeod who all made regular appearances have been released. Gordon Muchall has retired and one day captain Mark Stoneman abandoned the club alongside Scott Borthwick. In addition to these losses Jack Burnham’s broken thumb means he will likely miss every game and bowling all-rounder Usman Arshad is also a doubt for the group stage. In terms of international absentees, Barry McCarthy has been named as part of the Ireland squad to face England and he will be coming up against Mark Wood. The result of this is that Durham’s one day line-up will have a very different look, particularly at the top of the order, and Durham will have to look to youngsters to help reduce the workload of the bowlers.