Summary of season
After a disappointing 2022, Durham certainly got their act together this summer. With pretty much the same playing staff, they ended as runaway winners of Division Two, 66 points ahead of second placed Worcestershire.
The impression last season was that behind the scenes issues were spilling onto the field as a squad with plenty of good cricketers kept failing to get across the line. Head coach James Franklin departed and club stalwart Chris Rushworth announced a surprise move to Warwickshire, after 12 years at the county. Director of Cricket, Marcus North, who has now been at Durham for five years, brought in fellow Australian Ryan Campbell as coach and the rest is history.
Despite their dominance in Championship cricket, the white ball season was less profitable, finishing seventh in the North Group of the Blast and fifth in their One-Day cup group.
With the reduction in the points awarded for a draw, success in the Championship required the winning of games and the potency of the Durham bowling attack meant they achieved this seven times. The new ball attack of Ben Raine and Matty Potts took 60 and 54 wickets respectively and this compares with the next highest wicket-taker in Division Two, Leicestershire’s Chris Wright with 48. They were supported by Brydon Carse with 19 wickets, whose appearances were limited by injury and England call-ups and exciting young Dutch all-rounder Bas de Leede who, despite his inexperience with the red ball, made an immediate impact, taking 17 wickets in six games. Spin was also an option for skipper Scott Borthwick, although they would have been disappointed when overseas signing Matt Kuhnemann had to return home with a back injury after just three games, in which he had taken 12 wickets. Matt Parkinson then came in for one of two loan spells during which he took 23 wickets in eight matches, ahead of a permanent move in 2024.
The Durham batters provided plenty of runs for their bowlers to work with, amassing 54 batting bonus points, 23 more than anyone else in either Division. Alex Lees was the championship’s top run scorer, the opener scoring 1347 at 70.89. David Bedingham also passed the 1000 run mark and Ollie Robinson had an excellent start at his new county, with 931 runs at 58.18. Graham Clark found a new lease of life having had a difficult time in recent years, making 818 runs at 58.42.
The gap between the two Divisions is well documented, but Durham look to have the resources to compete at the higher level, particularly if Potts continues not to be a first choice for England.
They will be disappointed by their performance in the Blast, achieving just four wins from their 14 matches, although they also had two ties. The four wins came in their first six games and the latter part of the campaign was hampered by injury to Carse and Potts’ call up to the England squad. Nathan Sowter was the pick of the bowlers, the leg spinner having moved up to Durham following his release by Middlesex at the end of the 2022 season. His 12 wickets included the tournament’s best figures of 5-15 against Northants Steelbacks. They will be working to bolster the bowling resources in 2024.
A similar fate befell them in the One-Day Cup, with a number of key bowlers to the Hundred. Again they started the competition well, with two wins from their first three completed games, the match against Glamorgan being washed out. This included a record club List A total of 427/9 against Sussex, Lees and Bedingham both making centuries, Bedingham’s 102 coming from just 52 balls. Both players ending with over 400 runs in the competition. Liam Trevaskis was their most successful bowler with 12 wickets at 26.91, but his limited red ball opportunities have prompted the slow left arm spinner to move to Leicestershire.
Vitality Blast: Seventh in the North Group
Metro Bank One Day Cup: Fifth in Group B
LV= CC: Alex Lees 1347 at 70.89
Vitality Blast: Ollie Robinson 380 at 47.50; Strike rate 134.75
Metro Bank ODC: David Bedingham 413 at 59.00; Strike rate 121.82
LV= CC: Ben Raine 60 at 24.95
Vitality Blast: Nathan Sowter 24 at 14.50
Metro Bank ODC: Liam Trevaskis 12 at 26.91
Player of the season:
While Durham’s Championship title was the result of consistent performances from a number of players, Alex Lees made the stand out contribution. He scored 1347 runs, including five centuries, the second time he has passed the 1000 first class runs mark, the previous one being in 2017 when at Yorkshire. It is just over a year since Alex Lees last played for England and while his pace of batting may not fit with the current national ethos, he will be hoping to continue his run scoring exploits against the Division One attacks. He also made significant contributions in the One-Day Cup and Blast.
Still only 23-years-old, Bas de Leede has already made a name for himself in the white ball formats, highlighted by his match winning performance this summer against Scotland, taking the Netherlands through to the World Cup finals. Scotland seemed to have the upper hand, with the Netherlands 163/5 after 30.2 overs, but he then slayed the Scots bowlers for 123 off 92 balls. However it is in the longer format that he has impressed for Durham, making 279 from five innings at 93.00 and taking 17 wickets at 29.05. He has another year on his current contract and it seems likely that they might want to extend that further.
Could have done better
It is difficult to fault the red ball campaign, but clearly Durham will want to improve their performances in white ball cricket. They have not reached the quarter final stage of the Blast since 2018.
Need to work on
The Championship batting line up has a commendable stability, enhanced by the recruitment of Robinson and the return to form of Clark. The bowling resources have been stretched this season and they were reliant on loan players in the form of Parkinson on two occasions and Craig Miles for four games. While Durham have a strong history of bringing players through, they have been more reliant on imports in the last couple of years and will be hoping to see some of their young products flourish. One of these might be 22-year-old all-rounder Jonathan Bushnell, who has been putting in steady performances in List A and first class cricket.
Clearly the priority for Durham in 2024 will be to secure their place in Division One of the County Championship. Over recent years they have recruited well, highlighted by the move of Lees from Yorkshire in 2019 and they should be confident of avoiding the drop. Their T20 performances should be enhanced following the moves of Colin Ackerman and Callum Parkinson north.
Durham supporters will probably be satisfied with the season following their promotion, particularly after the disappointments of 2023. The club looks to be in a much happier place, but they will want to improve in the shorter formats following a barren few years.