Scott Borthwick wasn’t to know that Durham’s financial troubles would see their relegation from Division One when he finalised a decision to join Surrey in the final stages of last season.
“I think it was my first day at The Oval when that news came in, so, yeah, it was pretty sad,” he said at Surrey’s 2017 media day.
The 26-year-old, who has spent more than half of his life playing for the North East county, believes that the ECB’s punishment has reverberated around the local community.
“The North East is quite a passionate place about the sport, and just walking around the supermarket, members will come up and speak to you and obviously they’re quite gutted about the news.
“I spoke to a couple of players and I think they’re over the news now.”
Borthwick joined Durham aged 11 and played in the senior side for nearly a decade. His love for the county is difficult to eclipse and, as such, choosing to leave was not easy.
“It was a really tough decision. I spoke to Surrey halfway through the season and probably didn’t make my mind up until towards the end, and I think that shows how tough it was.
“As soon as I said out loud that I wanted to sign for Surrey, I think it became real then.”
But now, with heightened England aspirations on the back of a string of successful summers, he is hoping to find pastures even greener in South East London.
He has passed 1,000 first-class runs in each of his last four summers, a feat that put him in contention for a Test spot last year, but a run of ten innings in which he scored only one fifty all but extinguished his chances of playing against Pakistan.
“I got three hundreds and a couple of them were big hundreds, but I got a few low scores and that’s something I’d never really done in the past, where I’d been quite consistent in terms of how I’d scored,” Borthwick explained.
“I can’t exactly put my finger on why. It was just a case of I got out, and it can happen in cricket, whatever time of the season it is. But I think it didn’t really make me a bad player. I’m still the same player, and I finished the season well.”
Borthwick began his career as a leg-spinner who added an extra batting option, playing a solitary Test at the end of the 2013-14 Ashes series on the basis of his bowling, having taken 34 first-class wickets that summer.
He scored 1,121 runs that year and since has described himself as a batting all-rounder. Last season, he hit 1,084 runs and took 23 wickets, his best bowling performance since 2013.
In 2016, for Durham, he batted at three and hopes to be doing the same again at Surrey.
“It feels comfortable for me to bat three, and obviously it’s different here because I’m new and we’ve got a real strong batting line-up here. So hopefully I can stay in the top three but, if not, I’ll bat wherever [head coach Michael Di Venuto] wants me to.
“With my results the last couple of years I think you’d have to pick me as a batter with an option to bowl at this moment, but that’s not to say that I can’t have some performances for Surrey this year.
“In one-day cricket the last couple of years I’ve bowled pretty well. I think if I was to carry on like that, hopefully people will talk about me as an actual all-rounder because that’s something I want to be.
“Hopefully I can start well and get that confidence and that form and that rhythm and kick on and actually take wickets as well as score the runs.”