Five years on from the ECB sanctions which rocked Durham, the slow and steady rebuild of Durham’s fortunes continues. While they still lack the financial power to bring in the big names, and this will hold them back in white-ball cricket, the elements of a decent red-ball squad are there.
The return to the two division County Championship system is one that probably suits Durham. In Division Two, Sky Bet have them as second favourites and they would certainly expect to be in the mix for promotion at the end of the season. They weren’t ever likely to compete for top honours in last season’s three division, two tier format and this year gives them a better chance to compete and develop.
Durham were disappointing in the 2021 T20 Blast, finishing seventh in the North Group. Reaching the final of the Royal London One Day Cup as favourites after defeating Surrey in the semi-finals was a real opportunity for silverware which Durham fans, while pleased with performances to get there must have been gutted to miss out on. Still it was more evidence of things going in the right direction.
Director of Cricket Marcus North is well respected at Durham and beyond, so much so that he’s very much in the frame for the Director of Cricket role at the ECB. While this would be a blow to Durham, he would, you would think, go with every Durham fan’s best wishes. The timing would be difficult however and more responsibility would fall at James Franklin’s door.
At the end of last season, North oversaw the signing of five academy graduates to full contracts at Durham and with the rebuilding job that North and Franklin have overseen, the continued emphasis on developing home grown talent will be important.
Scott Borthwick’s return last season was very welcome, but the captain would have wanted to contribute more with the bat, and it’s the batting which looks the weaker suit on the face of it. Alex Lees may well join Mark Wood and Ben Stokes in being away from Durham for extended periods this summer which would remove a linchpin from the top of the order.
Durham will be hoping for continued progression from their young talent. Brydon Carse has gained international recognition of course, Matthew Potts, (more below) has progressed and Liam Trevaskis, whose left arm spin has improved a great deal, are three who everyone at The Riverside will be keen to see take further strides this year.
The Riverside hosts England vs South Africa in an ODI in July, which is a welcome continuation of international cricket in Durham and at a time of year when the elements should be in their favour.
Ins: George Drissell (Somerset)
Outs: Cameron Steel (Surrey), Paul van Meekeren (Gloucestershire), Will Young (Northants), Stuart Poynter
The evergreen Chris Rushworth remains central to Durham’s success. Although he turns 36 during the season, Durham will be looking to their most consistent and reliable bowler to lead their charge. 59 wickets at 18.18 represented another ridiculous statistical campaign for Rushworth, and it’s this consistency of high performance which so torments opposition batsmen and brings joy to Durham fans.
Without runs on the board however, Rushworth’s efforts will be in vain. David Bedingham was Durham’s top run scorer in red-ball cricket by nearly 400 runs last season and he’ll need to score heavily again, particularly if Alex Lees is retained at the top of the order by England.
Player to watch
Matthew Potts is a home grown talent, who could well go on to greater honours. After initially impressing in white-ball cricket and getting rewarded with a contract from The Northern Superchargers in The Hundred on the back of that, Potts continued to progress last year and had a stint in the PSL this winter. 23 wickets at 26 in seven County Championship matches was a decent red ball return and he also chipped in well with the bat, averaging just shy of 30. He was the clubs’ leading wicket taker in the T20 Blast as he continued to impress in the short form. Still just 23-years-old, a further strong season could see more and more people start paying attention to another quick from Durham.
David Bedingham returns after a stellar 2021 year. 1000 runs in the County Championship is the benchmark for all top batsmen, and this was achieved by Bedingham (with the significant assistance of 257 vs. Derbyshire). Bedingham also contributed well in T20 cricket with three fifties and a strike rate north of 150. He’s joined for the first seven matches of the season by fellow South African Keegan Petersen. Petersen joins Durham off the back of match and series winning contributions against India earlier this year, and a domestic record which has seen him rack up 6700 runs at an average of 40.
How will they fare:
Promotion from Division Two of the County Championship looks to be Durham’s best chance for success this year. If their batting line up can deliver the runs, then the bowling line up of Rushworth, Raine, Carse et al. should be threatening throughout the season.
The North Group of the T20 Blast is loaded, and odds of 33/1 suggest not many think much of Durham’s chances in the shortest format.
The One Day Cup is anyone’s guess depending on how the counties approach the competition this year, but even so, Durham’s white ball squad seems to lack the power to be successful this year.
Thursday 7th April 11:00 vs Glamorgan; Cardiff
County Championship Division 2: 11/2
Vitality Blast: 33/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 33/1