The good news for Durham this year is that the prodigal son has returned. Scott Borthwick is returning to his home county after four year sabbatical at the Oval, and will captain the county in First Class Cricket. Everyone in the North East will be hoping that he will be able to recapture the form that saw him receive his one and only England Test Cap in 2014 or, more recently, his performances in the 2018 in which season he averaged over 50 in the County Championship.
If Durham are to win another championship, they will have to qualify from a group that contains last year’s champions Essex, along with big spending Nottinghamshire; well resourced Warwickshire; last year’s surprise package Derbyshire and; the always dangerous Worcestershire. Progressing to the top group may be beyond them, even with the returning Borthwick and the evergreen and ever dangerous Chris Rushworth.
And yet it may not be. They have a fighting spirit at Durham. A fighting spirit that has seen them hold their heads high after ECB sanctions; a fighting spirit that has kept them afloat when lesser organisations may have gone under; a fighting spirit that often causes them to achieve more than they realistically should and; a fighting spirit that could just see them qualify out of their group and cause some upsets.
Durham have recruited well in the overseas department. Early in the season, they will have exciting Kiwi batter Will Young keeping a top order slot warm for returning Aussie Cameron Bancroft, who had a hugely successful stint with the county in 2019. Alex Lees and last year’s breakthrough player, David Bedingham, – both capable of stacking on the runs – will join Bancroft and Young.
Wickets, though, may be harder to come by. Apart from the consistently brilliant Rushworth only Ben Raine took more than 5 wickets and only one bowler other than Matt Salisbury averaged under 30. Clearly this will need to improve if Durham are to mount a challenge
Ins: Scott Borthwick (Surrey)
Outs: James Weighell, Ben Whitehead, Sol Bell, Josh Coughlin, Nathan Rimmington, Scott Steel (Leics) Gareth Harte
Having recently signed a contract extension with the county, Chris Rushworth has been leading the Durham attack since 2013, taking 376 wickets in those seven years. If he has a successful year this year then it will greatly improve Durham’s chances, and with a large portion of the County Championship fixtures being played in the early season, there is every chance that Rushworth and his expert seam bowling will have a successful season.
Player to Watch
Last season, a player that few had heard of, scored over 250 runs for Durham at an average of 31.62 and he was only beaten in the county’s run-scoring charts by then captain Alex Lees. The 27 year old South African, David Bedingham, will be hoping to improve on those figures this season and bring his output in line with his previous four seasons in South African domestic cricket. His lowest average there was 41.33 and in two seasons he averaged over 50. Watch out to see if he can do that again and so make himself a vital cog in the Durham machine.
Cameron Bancroft, Will Young
Will Young will play the first three County Championship matches for Durham, before the arrival of Bancroft for the rest of the four-day campaign. Both players are young and have points to prove for different reasons. Young is starting out in his career and wants to prove he can perform in different conditions, Bancroft will still be trying to prove his previous indiscretions are behind him and that he is ready to play for his country again. Durham and their supporters will be hoping that both can do both.
How they’ll fare
Durham are unlikely to be lifting any silverware this season. They have a tough group in the County Championship and, in the T20, the North Group is notoriously difficult to qualify from. They aren’t likely to qualify for the top group in the Championship or the quarterfinals in the T20.
Chances are, they will upset a few along the way but their best chance of success may well be in the Royal London One Day Cup. During that campaign, Durham will keep the vast majority of their squad when the Hundred is being played, and that continuity will be their biggest asset.
Opening Fixture: Nottinghamshire vs Durham, LV County Championship, Trent Bridge, 8th April to 11th April
LV County Championship : 66/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 22/1
Vitality Twenty20 Blast: 25/1