Fans of both sides would be forgiven for feeling a little bemused to find this encounter taking place in the second tier of English domestic cricket. Both are successful and talented teams who have produced major talent for the international set-up in recent years.
Durham were handed a huge points deduction by the ECB which meant that they, and not Hampshire, plummeted to division two at the end of 2016. To make matters worse, they also start this season on -48 points. Oh, and they have also lost two of their best players, Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, to wealthy southern rivals Surrey. And Ben Stokes is in India. And they are banned from signing new players or claiming prize money until their ECB debt is paid off. And it’s cold in Durham.
Anyway, Durham still have a strong squad by Division Two standards at least and they have a long tradition of squeezing out wins and holding on for draws against the odds. Sir Ian Botham is now on their side as chairman, and if anybody in English cricket is synonymous with miracles, it is he.
Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, have started life in Division Two in style by trouncing local rivals Leicestershire by ten wickets in just over two days at Grace Road. While Stuart Broad naturally brought his immense talent to bear on the match, it was Australian fast bowler James Pattinson who stood out with 89* and match figures of 8-84. While Broad’s application to be allowed to feature against Durham has been rejected by the ECB, Pattinson is available until June and has made a highly promising start to his season.
Graham Onions could be forgiven for thinking that there is some malevolent cricketing god whose sole motive is to thwart his career. Not only is he stuck on a meagre nine Test caps, now he and his side have been relegated for reasons beyond the players’ control. Nevertheless, he can console himself with the knowledge that he is also blessed with a cricketing angel who has given him immense talent that remains potent even at 34 years of age.
Alex Hales has been out of the spotlight for too long, and this makes him a dangerous player to bowl at. Questions about his form have usually met with a stinging retort on the pitch – his 107-ball 110 against the West Indies in his most recent ODI appearance is evidence of this trait. Somewhat unlucky to lose his Test spot after notching up five half-centuries in 11 Tests, Hales has moved down the order to try to force his way into the England team via a different door.
Durham are without Ben Stokes (IPL duty), but otherwise have posted a strong side in spite of the inestimable loss of Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick to Surrey over the winter. England Test star Keaton Jennings will be playing, as will the ferocious Mark Wood.
Durham squad: Paul Collingwood (c), Jack Burnham, Brydon Carse, Stephen Cook, Paul Coughlin, Keaton Jennings, Graham Onions, Stuart Poynter, Ryan Pringle, Michael Richardson, Chris Rushworth, Cameron Steel, Mark Wood
Nottinghamshire have made only one change from the squad that swept Leicestershire aside in their season opener. Stuart Broad is out, and is replaced by England teammate Jake Ball.
Nottinghamshire squad: Chris Read (c, wk), Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Brett Hutton, Jake Libby, Michael Lumb, Samit Patel, James Pattinson, , Greg Smith, Rikki Wessels
Durham are unbeaten in their last four home matches against Nottinghamshire (W3 D1).
The North East club are currently enjoying a nine-game unbeaten streak at home (W3 D6).
Durham have avoided defeat in each of their last four season opener fixtures (W2 D2); last losing such a game to Nottinghamshire in their 2012 curtain-raiser.
Keaton Jennings (Durham) scored more runs in the County Championship last season than any other batsman (1548).
Weather and conditions
Showers are likely on days one and three and temperatures in the northeast are likely to be lower over Easter than they have been recently. There will be at least patchy cloud cover for most of the match, so seamers will be in business.
Date: 14th-17th April 2017
Ground: Emirates ICG
Odds (SkyBet): Durham 6/5, Nottinghamshire 4/6.