Numerous positives can be drawn from the summer of 2019, but ultimately Durham were unable to make any significant strides to rebuilding their status as one of the strongest counties in the Country.
The North-East County competed strongly all season and looked set to progress in each respective competition.
Those in the North East could be forgiven in believing that the Cricket Gods are against Durham, given the events of recent years, and it was no different in the Royal London One-Day Cup campaign.
Arguably their strongest showing in any competition, Durham missed out on qualification for the quarterfinals by the number of wins. Lancashire pipped them to the final knockout place largely thanks to a close victory against their northern counterparts.
Durham were moving towards victory before former club stalwart, Graham Onions, hit two sixes in a match-winning cameo against his beloved former County. Onions admitted in post-match interviews that his eyes were closed when hitting both sixes, perhaps an instinctive reaction to the thought of taking victory away from his former side.
To make matters worse, Durham’s last two matches were washed out; a win in either would’ve been enough to take them through.
Their downfall in the T20 Blast was entirely at their own hands, however.
Durham produced some eye-catching results in the early stages of the competition, D’Arcy Short and Scott Steel forming a formidable opening partnership. Leicestershire, in particular, felt the full force of said partnership in both group games. During the first, Short (77 not out off 36) and Steel (70 off 30) made a mockery of the Foxes’ total of 158 all out by knocking it off in 11.1 overs for the loss of just one wicket.
During the reverse fixture, just five days later, Short starred again with a 36-ball 70; completing an eight-wicket win with over five overs to spare.
The campaign unravelled pretty quickly after that, however, with just one win from the final six matches – two matches, in particular, Durham managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Durham failed to score just 39 runs from the final seven overs with all ten wickets still in hand against Worcestershire.
Again, against Yorkshire, the home side required 41 runs from 38 deliveries. But a cataclysmic collapse, in which Durham lost eight for 26 in the next 32 deliveries, meant a place in the quarterfinals was thrown away.
Despite near misses in both white-ball campaigns, success in the County Championship was always the priority, especially with an extra promotion place up for grabs.
Durham kept themselves in contention for promotion for most of the season, until a defeat against Northants in the penultimate game of the season ended any hopes.
Many had ruled Durham out of the running for promotion when they were defeated in the first four matches. However, the aforementioned defeat against Northants was the only one they suffered for the rest of the season. An unbeaten streak of eight matches, including five wins, marks a significant return and their best since relegation in 2016.
Many positives can be drawn from the red-ball campaign, but one must question the decision to make Cameron Bancroft captain. A club in Durham’s position have to build for the long-term, and it is hard to see how they achieve this with Bancroft in charge. The Australian missed the final four matches of the season due to his involvement in the Ashes; a selection, incidentally, that worked out well for neither party.
Bancroft has already re-signed for the 2020 season.
SSCC Division Two – 5th
RL50: Group Stage – 4th
T20 Blast: Group Stage – 6th
SSCC: Alex Lees – 899, average 37.45
RL50: Cameron Bancroft – 377, average 94.25
T20 Blast: D’Arcy Short – 483, average 43.90
SSCC: Chris Rushworth – 69, average 18.42
RL50: Brydon Carse/Matthew Potts – 10
T20 Blast: Matthew Potts – 17
Player of the Season:
Solid contributions came from numerous Durham players across all forms, but Chris Rushworth’s contribution stands above all others. 69 Championship wickets marks another outstanding return for the 33-year-old, and the most from a Division Two bowler.
Rushworth played in all 14 matches, and started the season in amazing fashion by taking two wickets in the first three balls in the match against Derbyshire.
Scott Steel looks set to be a mainstay at the top of the order for Durham in white-ball cricket after his exploits this season. The 20-year-old debuted in all forms and has made a good start to his career. The T20 Blast looks to be his strongest format, as he flourished in an opening partnership with D’Arcy Short.
Could have done better:
It may seem harsh to ask too much of Jack Burnham after he made his comeback in 2019, from a one-year ban following a failed drugs test. This ban was of Burnham’s making, however, and he needs to produce more for his side. 598 runs at an average of 27.18 is not good enough for a player who was once seen as a future England international.
Need to work on:
Finishing strong – all the hard work is being wasted by losing the big moments. This is something that will hopefully come in time.
More rebuilding. There is enough talent at Durham to believe they are heading in the right direction. Chris Rushworth is a fine leader of the bowling attack and Bryon Carse performed well, also. Ben Raine was a welcome acquisition with both bat and ball, and Alex Lees seems to be getting back to the player he was during his best days at Yorkshire.
Liam Trevaskis did a solid job from a young all-rounder, but they need to develop a proper spinner to have a real crack at promotion. There’s a good chance we could see a lot more of Mark Wood next year.
Season Rating: 5/10