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.