Durham would not have wanted the 2019 County Championship to end after a disastrous start. They lost just one of the last ten games, winning 5, and flirted with promotion for a brief period.
The 2019 season was a nearly season for Durham, with Championship promotion and progress through to the group stages of the limited overs competitions just evading them.
The form of top order batsmen Alex Lees and Cameron Bancroft was a real highlight. The pair hit five centuries between them. Durham also found form with their seam bowlers, Brydon Carse, Ben Raine and Chris Rushworth – each of them helping themselves to three 5-wicket hauls.
The only thing hindering Durham’s Championship push was the lack of runs from the middle order and the lack of wickets from the spin department. Two things that the club will have been keen to address.
The biggest signing for Durham over the winter was the overseas signing of Cameron Bancroft for a second consecutive summer. Bancroft has also been appointed captain once again. The decision to re-sign the Australian opener was a simple one after Bancroft scored 726 Championship runs last summer at an average of 45, alongside 377 One-Day cup runs at 94. Bancroft was also influential off the field guiding a very young side with his calm leadership and clear tactical thinking.
Durham have made clever signings in order to strengthen their middle order, including that of former South Africa international Farhaan Behardien through a Kolpak deal. Behardien will bring stability through his experience with 59 ODI caps and 38 T20I caps, experience that Durham lacked in tight games last season. He will also be valuable in the Championship with a first-class average of 40.84.
The signing of fellow South African born batsman David Bedingham, signed through having an English passport, will also add quality and depth to the middle order. The 26 year old has impressed in his first-class career averaging in the mid 40s and will be hungry to prove himself in England.
As well as looking overseas, Durham have brought a North-East native back home this winter: Paul Coughlin has returned after two tough years at Nottinghamshire. The all-rounder will bring more one-day quality with both bat and ball. Coughlin has proven a very clever T20 bowler averaging 22 with the ball in hand. Behardien and Coughlin should give Durham an x-factor in the limited overs to see them over the line.
On the other hand, Durham failed to retain the services of T20 star D’Arcy Short, who opted for Surrey instead, and have released spinning all-rounders Ryan Pringle and George Harding. Leaving the lack of spinners still an issue entering the new season, placing more scrutiny on Liam Trevaskis who will be keen to show his talent with the ball this summer.
Durham have definitely made strides to improve the depth of the squad and be more of a threat in the limited overs competitions. The three signings should help, especially the experience of Behradien. However, not having Short back for the T20 Blast may hurt their chances of reaching Finals Day.
Durham have relied on their academy to rebuild this side over the last couple of years and now can add ready made quality to make that next step.
A promotion push in the Championship is definitely within reach for this squad, and they should expect improved performances in the One-Day Cup as well.