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.
Hetton Lyons failed to win for the first time as Benwell Hill and South Northumberland opened a bit of a gap at the top of the table this week. Whitburn, Felling and South Shields are still waiting for their first wins.
Benwell Hill beat South Shields by 7 wickets.
Strugglers South Shields put on a respectable 197-6 as Salman Ahmed scored 76. Anthony Hunter was the star with the ball for Benwell taking 5-56. This score was not enough however as a 136-run partnership between captain Kyle Coetzer and Sameet Brar allowed Benwell hill to chase the score down comfortably.
Chester-le-Street beat Eppleton by 99 runs.
Chester-le-Street also scored 197 in the first innings of this match with usual suspect Kyle Davis top scoring with 68. Adam Hickey, who captained Durham’s 2nd XI in the absence of James Weighell, also played in this match and scored 29 with the bat as well as taking 4-39 with the ball as Eppleton were bowled out for 98.
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.
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.
Pre-season title favourites South Northumberland and Benwell Hill sealed their second wins as two Durham CC veterans rolled back the years in Division 1.
Eppleton beat Felling by 100 runs.
Eppleton secured a comfortable win thanks to Marcus Brown’s 80 and Craig Scurr’s rapid 46 from 20 balls, setting Felling 258 to win. Right arm medium bowler Joseph Coyne, who has previously played for Durham’s 2nd XI and Northumberland took 5-40 as Felling could only manage 157 all out in response.
South Northumberland beat South Shields by 1 wicket.
The pitch inspectors might be taking an interest in this thriller as the bowlers ran riot. Jonny Wightman took 5-15 as South Shields were all out for 78. Chris Stewart took 4 for 33 and Matthew Muchall 3 for 33 for South Shields but this was not enough thanks to Adam Cragg’s captains innings. When Cragg was joined by Michael Craigs the South North score was 59-7. The pair put on a crucial 17 or the eighth wicket, taking their team to within three runs of victory, despite Craigs scoring no runs from 14 balls in this partnership. Scotland international Calum MacLeod got a duck for South North in their chase.
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.