Please note: some of the information in this review is no longer correct. For more, please see: Durham relegated to second division cricket
Despite no silverware in the Durham cabinet, they will probably reflect favourably on their 2016 season.
A first T20 final was the undoubted highlight of their campaign. It was only their second visit to Finals Day, and the commanding victory over a star-studded Yorkshire in the semi-final will serve as perhaps the standout moment from their season. Falling at that last hurdle against Northants, agonising though it was, still represents progress for the Jets in the T20 format.
A bid for a fourth County Championship crown – having only clinched their first in 2008 – never really got up and running, though they never looked in serious danger of going down either.
They banished any possibility of relegation in the penultimate round of fixtures and concluded the four-day season with a commanding win over Hampshire at the Rose Bowl. A fourth-placed finish is nothing to be sniffed at for Durham, who were only 30 points adrift of champions Middlesex – such was the tight nature of the Division One table.
The Championship campaign was most notable for the performances of young opener Keaton Jennings, whose performances with the bat catapulted himself into the England shake-up and provided Durham with the runs upon which their campaign was built.
24-year-old Jennings piled on a mammoth 1548 runs across the season, falling just short of breaking the club record, though Division One’s leading scorer did set a Durham record with his seven centuries in the season.
The Royal London One-Day Cup came and went without any real fanfare from the North-East side. Group-stage elimination will have come as a disappointment, though they only missed out on the knockout stage on net run rate.
So overall, there were lots of positives for Durham in the 2016 season, with progress in the T20 Blast and continued stability in the top flight of the Championship.
It always sounds a little patronising to credit Durham for punching above their weight, but it shouldn’t be ignored that the club aren’t one of the powerhouses of English cricket and are beset by hugely worrying financial concerns. With that in mind, their continued presence at the top end of the domestic game, and the huge talent that the club produces, deserves an awful lot of credit. 2016 has been another campaign where that has been evident.
The back-end of the season did feature some disappointing news for Durham supporters, with the announcements that captain Mark Stoneman and critical all-rounder Scott Borthwick had both rejected new contracts at the club and would both be playing their cricket for Surrey next season.
With two such figures departing, and with the financial issues that the club continue to battle, there is a degree of uncertainty heading into next season. Replacing those two will be an enormous task, but with the likes of Jennings joined by emerging young players such as Paul Coughlin and James Weighell, there is also reason for optimism in the North East.
Player of the Season: Keaton Jennings
There simply could be no other choice for this accolade. Jennings has taken Division One by storm, piling on the runs with enormous fluency and great style. He was also only eight runs short of being Durham’s top scorer in the T20 Blast – showing his quality is replicated in white ball cricket too. England resisted the temptation to pick the left-hander this winter, but Lions recognition is reward for his remarkable campaign.
Breakthrough Player: Paul Coughlin
The 23-year-old is yet to really set the world alight, but the signs are that he is on the right track. The T20 Blast campaign was impressive from the seamer, with 17 wickets from 12 matches proving crucial in helping his side reach the final. Six outings in the County Championship yielded 10 wickets, and a new contract was announced at the end of the season. Coughlin is one to watch.
Could have done better: Michael Richardson
Just didn’t put the runs on the board in 2016. The Durham keeper averaged just 23.18 in the County Championship, without hitting a century. He didn’t fare much better in the T20 Blast, averaging just 18.80 from his 12 innings with a meagre strike rate of 109.94. The Royal London One-Day Cup brought more success, but he only played five matches – indicating a difficult season for Richardson.
Need to work on
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Durham need to improve. The runs came fairly fluently from the bat of Stoneman, Jennings and Borthwick, while experience is provided by Paul Collingwood in the middle order. They are perhaps a top-drawer spinner away from reaching the top level in all competitions. Borthwick’s batting has taken over from his leg-spin, but he was still an option and will be missed. Durham are a touch short in that department.
Durham’s off-field financial strife is well-documented, but they will have to find a way to replace the runs and influence of Surrey-bound duo Stoneman and Borthwick. The North-East side continue to punch above their weight in all competitions, but losing two of their brightest stars will represent a real challenge going into next season.
SSCC: 4th Division One (UPDATE: Durham relegated to second division)
T20 Blast: Runners-Up (4th, North Group)
RLODC: Group Stage (5th, North Group)
Leading run-scorers: SSCC: Keaton Jennings (1548); T20 Blast: Mark Stoneman (356); RLODC: Mark Stoneman (247)
Leading wicket-takers: SSCC Graham Onions (54); T20 Blast: Chris Rushworth (19); RLODC: Chris Rushworth (12)
Win %: 42.5%
Solid would perhaps be the best word to describe Durham’s season. A T20 Blast final was the undoubted highlight, while their displays in the County Championship and Royal London One-Day Cup were perfectly acceptable – without ever threatening a tilt at silverware.