Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Durham v Lancashire

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Durham v Lancashire

Seats will be at a premium in the press tent in Blackpool this week as Ben Stokes returns

Lancashire’s problems only seem to grow and this week the biggest one may be how to handle the crowds that could turn up in Blackpool for the return of England captain, Ben Stokes to county cricket. They move from Old Trafford for their game against Durham and Stokes will be part of their Championship side for the first time in two years. He played three matches in 2022 and scored 161 off just 88 balls against Worcestershire and also took 4-72 in a match against Middlesex. He is not part of England’s T20 World Cup plans having stated that he is focussed on regaining his fitness to be able to bowl in the coming Test series against the West Indies. Following knee surgery in the winter, Stokes only bowled five overs in the series against India. The first Test starts on 10 July, leaving four Championship fixtures he could play in preparation for those matches.

This is clearly a big boost to Durham’s prospects following a competent start to their first season back in Division One, having registered one win and four draws (one game abandoned without a ball bowled). This is despite disappointing performances from their impressive-looking seam attack, Callum Parkinson currently heading the wicket-taking with 13 at 41.95. Matty Potts has eight at 49.75 and Brydon Carse has taken just one wicket. This will be a concern for the players and England with the need to rebuild the England pace attack. Both bowlers will be making every effort to correct those numbers, particularly in the presence of Stokes. The Durham batters have been productive, led by David Bedingham with 490 runs at 81.66, including two centuries. Ollie Robinson continues to prosper with 325 runs at 65.00 and he too will want to impress the England captain with the debate continuing as to who should keep wicket for England.

Meanwhile Lancashire’s third consecutive defeat last week, this time to Nottinghamshire, leaves them 13 points adrift at the bottom of Division One and facing a battle to avoid relegation, with over a third of the Championship season gone. Captain Keaton Jennings has been trying to set the standard and leads their run scoring with 343 at 42.87, but he has been fighting a lone battle, 20-year-old wicket keeper Matthew Hurst the next highest run scorer with 225 at 28.12. Kiwi overseas signing Tom Bruce has struggled, with just 148 runs at 18.50. Nathan Lyon heads the wicket taking with 12 at 26.91 and the leading seamers are George Balderson with 11 and Will Williams 10 wickets. The good news for Lancashire was the return of Saqib Mahmood against Nottinghamshire. However, if Lancashire are to avoid a fourth successive defeat, the batters are going to have to put in a more determined effort.

With “Captain Fantastic” in the Durham side and a number of his team mates all too keen to impress, it will take a huge turnaround from Lancashire to avoid another disappointing outcome.

Key players:

Keaton Jennings is in his second year as Lancashire skipper and all his leadership skills will be needed if he is to turn this season around for the Red Rose county. He has some experienced figures around him, including Nathan Lyon, who should return for this match and they will need to support Jennings to get the most out of what is undoubtedly a talented squad. Jennings himself will want to keep posting big scores, although his Test ambitions may be over, given that it is over five years since the 31-year-old’s last international appearance.

Brydon Carse has had a disappointing start to the season with just one wicket and 52 runs from three games. England is attracted by the pace at which he bowls, but his appearances for his adopted country have been limited to the white ball formats so far. He is not part of the T20 World Cup squad and will be keen to get his season back on track. There will not be a better time to start than in front of Stokes this week.

Team News:

Lyon should return for Lancashire.

Lancashire squad (from): Keaton Jennings (c), Tom Bailey, George Balderson, George Bell, Jack Blatherwick, Josh Bohannon, Tom Bruce, Tom Hartley, Matthew Hurst (wk), George Lavelle, Nathan Lyon, Saqib Mahmood, Luke Wells, Will Williams

Selection will depend on which of the Durham pace bowlers need a rest with Stokes coming in for one of them, assuming he can bowl a full stint of overs.

Durham squad (from): Scott Borthwick (c), Colin Ackerman, David Bedingham, Brydon Carse, Graham Clark, Paul Coughlin, Bas de Leede, Michael Jones, Alex Lees, Callum Parkinson, Matty Potts, Ben Raine, Ollie Robinson (wk), Peter Siddle, Ben Stokes

Weather and Conditions

While showers are forecast on day one, the sun is due to shine throughout the rest of the game.

Last year’s match against Essex was the first Championship game played at Stanley Park for 12 years. Only 28 balls were bowled on day one, but it did not prevent an exciting finish as Lancashire fell 46 runs short of chasing down 430. Essex chose to bat first on that occasion and the same may happen this week, despite the early dampness.

Date: 17th May 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: Stanley Park, Blackpool


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