Dynamos Weekly: Things can only get better

Hello and welcome to the first instalment of what will hopefully be a regular musing on the happenings at Durham CCC. Things haven’t got off to a very good start but we’ll dwell more on that later.

If you aren’t up to speed on your Durham history, let me catch you up quickly. We’re still the youngest first-class county having taken the plunge in 1992. We were terrible for a number of years before a decided upturn around the turn of the millennium. Things were so tickety boo there are even 3 County Championship trophies in the cabinet. Then the ECB intervened.

I’m not going to go over the outcome as it was a long time ago now and it’s time to look to the future but I’m of the opinion we were harshly treated. There is a bubbling vitriol below the surface which may appear during the course of the season.

Due to our financial…issues…the squad is the weakest it has been for some time. International players of the past and present have departed, most notably England opener Keaton Jennings and long-serving opening bowler Graham Onions. Add to that promising youngster Paul Coughlin, who had been handed T20 captaincy, it is clear that Durham are no longer able to compete with most clubs either off the field or on.

There must be some positives, right? I suppose Chris Rushworth is still there, though without Onions there’s a huge pressure on his 31-year-old shoulders to carry an otherwise inexperienced bowling attack. Mark Wood is still about but he’s made of glass and has an England white ball contract, so I can’t imagine the Lumley End will see much of him. The same goes for Ben Stokes, though he also has a test contract so we’ll be lucky to see him in a DH postcode. Paul Collingwood, now 41, remains to skipper the side after a strong 2017. Hopefully, 2018 is not one too many but he is Mr Durham so frankly, he can do what he wants.

The batting lineup is frankly terrifying. Not in a good way. Will Smith has returned after being part of the successful side 10 years ago, though he’s now 35. Graham Clark and Cameron Steel have shown plenty of promise, whilst South African born Gareth Harte is a relative unknown. Youngster Jack Burnham is banned for the season, which leaves overseas pair Aiden Markram and Tom Latham to share a batting spot. More on how that is working out shortly.

The pick of the signings is probably 35 year old Nathan Rimmington, though that seems to sum up the desperation around the club. There isn’t a long-term plan here, though I suppose Beefy’s pockets are only so deep.

With the terrible weather sweeping England throughout April, the warm-up match with Durham Uni saw barely a day’s play. The toss rule has done us no favours either, the Riverside is rarely a flat track and batting first on it routinely is going to result in disaster. Sure enough, Kent didn’t ask for a coin toss and Durham’s season got underway on a surprisingly sunny Friday morning with Smith and Markram at the crease. Kent’s New Zealand International Matt Henry had a field day, taking the wickets of 5 of the top 6 and helping reduce Durham to 46/6. Like the bad old days then, though even the wooden spoon sides of the mid-90s could manage more than the 91 mustered here.

To be fair, other than the 2nd wicket partnership of 63 Kent batted as poorly as Durham, eventually being skittled for 169, Rimmington and young James Weighell taking 3 wickets each. There are definitely places to be cemented in this Durham team so it was at least nice to see some fight.

That said, and remember we are still in day one, there was still time for Markram to complete a debut pair, being dismissed before close and securing his entry in “Durham’s worst ever debuts” history. I’d love to say a wonderful, gritty comeback ensued but instead, we were reduced to 39/7 before nightwatchman Matty Potts (36) and Weighell (84) at least ensured Kent had to bat again. They did and unsurprisingly they knocked off the 92 needed with minimal fuss.

Whether it’s a bad pitch or just Matt Henry being too good for our inexperienced lineup it remains to be seen if this is how the Durham season will go. It’s Northants on Friday, they’ve lost 2 out of 2. We live in hope.

Until next time…