Thursday, 10 April 2008

2008 Season Preview: Durham

Continuing our series of county previews, Rob Dixon assesses Durham's chances in 2008.

2007 in a nutshell
What can you say…it was the year Durham came of age. An Ottis Gibson inspired team led them to both Friends Provident Trophy and Pro 40 Division Two success. They also finished second in County Championship Division One: a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ story for any Durham supporter.

2008 Prospects
It will be tough to repeat what happened in 2007, but they have kept the majority of the side that did so well last year. They have lost Otis Gibson to England management but have managed a major coup in re-signing Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Michael Di Venuto, the latter taking advantage of his Italian passport to qualify as a non-overseas player. Until Chanderpaul’s arrival in July, the club have signed Neil McKenzie to start the season and Albie Morkel will be at the club for the Twenty20 campaign in June.

Despite being resigned to losing Collingwood for most of the season with England, the batting looks solid with Di Venuto likely to open the batting with McKenzie at the beginning of the season. Kyle Coetzer came on leaps and bounds last season and will hope to cement his place in the side. Hopefully this will take a bit of pressure of Dale Benkenstein whose runs have been invaluable over the last few years as well as his shrewd captaincy. Phil Mustard will hopefully translate his one-day form to the county game as he has the talent to reach 1000 championship runs

It will be a big year for a few of the other batsman attempting to get in the side. Gordon Muchall is getting to the time now where he has to deliver his undoubted promise. Will Smith and Garry Park are also young batsman hoping to take their chance and Mark Stoneman, who scored his maiden century against Sussex last season, will aim to be the next star of the flourishing Academy system at the Riverside.

Losing Gibson is a major blow but it has been softened by the fact that Durham might get a full season out of Steve Harmison, his wickets will be crucial for the club as he has quality back up with Liam Plunkett and Graham Onions, both of whom should be pushing for winter tour spots. Mark Davies and Callum Thorp have hopefully got over their injury worries of the past few years and add the ever reliable Neil Killeen and Mitchell Claydon to the mix and Durham have a rich seam of pace bowling options. One thing they do lack, as in recent years, is a quality spinner and should we get a hot summer then they may struggle with only the spin of Gareth Breese and Paul Wiseman

Probable sides:
Michael Di Venuto
Neil McKenzie / Mark Stoneman after July
Kyle Coetzer
Gordon Muchall / Shivnarine Chanderpaul after July
Dale Benkenstein (c)
Phil Mustard (wk)
Gareth Breese
Liam Plunkett
Graham Onions
Mark Davies
Steve Harmison

Pressing for places: Will Smith, Garry Park, Ben Harmison, Mitchell Claydon, Callum Thorp

One-day and Twenty20
Phil Mustard
Michael Di Venuto
Kyle Coetzer
Neil McKenzie / Chanderpaul
Dale Benkenstein
Gordon Muchall
Gareth Breese / Albie Morkel (Twenty20)
Liam Plunkett
Graham Onions
Neil Killeen
Steve Harmison

Key Man:
I’m going for Michael di Venuto. Good starts are invaluable if they are going to challenge for honours and the likeable Aussie (Italian!) will hopefully help that come to fruition. His county record is second to none and despite his advancing years, he will hopefully nurture the young batsmen at the club to better things, as well as continue his high standards.

Rising Star:
Kyle Coetzer showed last year that he is a quality young batsman. A former Scotland U19’s captain, he broke into the side in the middle of last season after a run of decent scores in the 2nd XI. He also scored 61 in the Friends Provident Trophy Final looking accomplished against the spin of Shane Warne. He has the talent to score hundreds this season and maybe force himself into international reckoning.

Captain and Coach:
Geoff Cook had a fairytale first season as coach after taking the reins following Martyn Moxon’s move to Yorkshire at the start of last season. Dale Benkenstein continues as captain for his third season at the helm.

Surely it’s impossible to emulate the performances of last season…or is it? The Championship is the Holy Grail and I believe this team will go close; a lack of a quality spinner might just prove costly however.

One-day performances will hopefully continue to be strong, don’t rule out another Lords final and maybe just maybe we will get out of Twenty20 Cup north group after years of trying!


Chrispy said...

Durham could be worth a punt. Fancy them to build on the friends provident victory. Losing Gibson is a blow, but Plunkett is coming on and Harmison can still trouble county batsman. Good blend to the batting between youngsters and elder statesmen, some flambouyant, some bullish. Only weakness is the spinner, but all seam attacks could be just the ticket early season, especially at the riverside. I fancy 4th.

Richard Lake said...

I think I had them 4th as well, and if it is a dry summer, then the spin option will be a miss. However, it is by a long chalk the best pace attack in the CC, particularly if Harmison is surplus to England requirements

durhamfootman said...

I predict Harmy to be the first bowler to take 50 CC wickets and earn an England recall for the SA series.
I also think England may well pick Ambrose for the ODI's and so Phil Mustard will get plenty of chances to improve his CC batting average for Durham.
Top 4 finish with Sussex, Lancashire and possibly Somerset the other possibles, but it will be close again.