Continuing our season reviews, 'Durhamfootman' offers an assesment of Durham's triumphant campaign.
Championship Div 1 - Winners
FP Trophy - Semi-finalists
Twenty20 Cup - Semi-finalists
Pro 40 Div 1 - 3rd place
After the euphoria of 2007 and the club’s first piece of silverware, it was always going to be hard to live up to the expectations, some of it optimistic, of its supporters in 2008. Yet that is precisely what Durham did, by winning their maiden county championship title, just 16 years after gaining first-class status.
The central core of Durham’s success lay in its seam attack. The loss of Ottis Gibson was always going to be difficult to overcome, but England, in their wisdom, saw fit to provide the solution, by dropping Steve Harmison from the test team.
Harmison, with a point to prove, set about demolishing division 1 batting line-ups with vigour. Re-discovered rhythm, pace and accuracy saw him return figures of 60 wickets at an average of 22, ably supported by Callum Thorp (50 @ 19s) and Mark Davies (39 @ 15s). A less successful season for Plunkett and Onions, both suffered from injury problems and struggled to get going, once fit. More will be expected from them next season, once Harmison returns to the England fold.
Ben Harmison made steady, if not spectacular, progress with the ball, but was found a little wanting, with the bat. Nevertheless he has shown that he may well have the ability to play a bigger role in 2009. Spin has never been one of Durham’s strong suits, but Paul Wiseman was an ever-present, chipping in with 16 wickets and scoring some very useful runs. Gareth Breese had limited CC opportunities, yet averaged 184 in the final two games of the season. Reason enough, I think, to thank him for.
The batting department was less successful. Batting collapses were an all too familiar feature of Durham’s season, without ever proving truly fatal. DiVenuto (1058 runs) and captain, Benkenstein, (783 runs) were the bedrock of the batting line-up and the team’s reliance on them, in the early part of the season, at times bordered on the embarrassing.
The introduction of Will Smith steadied the ship and he chipped in with 925 runs from 12 matches, which included 3 big hundreds, one a double hundred, and 3 fifties. Fortunately for Durham, of those three players, only one of them was ever out of form, at any one time.
The overseas players did little to rectify the batting imbalance, McKenzie was poor and Chanderpaul only came good towards the end of the campaign. Phil Mustard failed to improve on his 26 average from 2007, but his final innings 84, helped get Durham over the line. The fact that Durham secured 8 batting points less than Surrey, is probably a ‘flattering’ reflection on Durham’s batting. This will need to be addressed for the 2009 season.
Durham were able to make a determined defence of their FP title, losing out to Kent in the semi-final. They established themselves in the Pro 40 division 1, after promotion last term, finishing a creditable 3rd. The biggest improvement came in the Twenty20 cup, where Durham’s record of being the worst county in T20 cricket was redressed with a maiden appearance (albeit woeful) at Twenty20 finals day.
2009 will be an interesting season. Benkenstein looks set to relinquish the captaincy, but is likely to remain Durham’s most influential player. Harmison will be a big loss. The contracts of some senior players will end next year, which is likely to lead to some retirements.
The challenge for Durham will be to continue with the development of its young players like Harmison jnr, Stoneman, Smith, Coetzer, Muchall and Park, all of whom have now got first team experience. These are the players who must step up and be ready to fill the places that will be left in 2010 by DiVenuto and the, poorly selected, overseas batsmen. Hopefully Durham will then be able to acquire the services of a world class spinner. It is now time for the team that convincingly won the 2nd XI Championship, to lead Durham's 1st XI to further success, in the coming seasons.
Player of the Season:
Probably a toss up between Harmison and Smith
Most Disappointing Player:
Twenty20 Cup semi-final
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