2008 County Preview - Durham
Durham enjoyed their most successful season yet in 2007, and will be looking to build on that in 2008. After winning the Friends Provident Trophy, they finished second in the County Championship and won the Pro40 Division One. The only departure in the off season was that of fast bowler Ottis Gibson, who is now the England bowling coach.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul returns to share overseas duties with Neil McKenzie – both are in good form with McKenzie hitting a double century in Bangladesh and Chanderpaul doing the same in the Carib Beer Cup in Guyana. As if that wasn’t enough firepower, Durham have drafted in Albie Morkel for the Twenty20 Cup. Morkel impressed during the ICC World Twenty20 and is beginning to make strides towards establishing himself in South Africa’s One Day International side and should be a good signing for the Dynamos.
The only other signings have been Mark Stoneman and Luke Evans, who have been signed up from Durham’s youth squad, and they will be hopeful of following in the footsteps of England internationals Paul Collingwood, Steve Harmison, Phil Mustard and Liam Plunkett. It shouldn’t be too long before Graham Onions is given a chance with the full side so Durham will again have to rotate their bowling attack to cover for any absences. They did superbly well without Harmison and Collingwood last season, although Gibson had a fine season and he will be difficult to replace.
One area that Durham will look to improve is their Twenty20 cricket – it was the only competition in 2007 that they failed to shine in, only winning one game in their group and failing to make the quarter-finals. The firepower of Morkel will help them in that regard, and if they have Mustard and Collingwood available, there is no reason why they can’t progress in the shorter form of the game.
Australian Michael Di Venuto, who enjoyed a fine season in 2007, is still able to play for Durham after having announced his retirement from Australian domestic cricket and will play using his Italian passport. Former South African international Dale Benkenstein will retain the captaincy and should be fresh for the start of the season after being involved in the ICL 20s Grand Championship with the Delhi Giants.
Getting Chanderpaul back for the 2008 season was a great coup, as there are few players around the world in as good touch as he is, while McKenzie proved with his time at Somerset last season that he is no less talented a player while the prospect of Morkel in the Twenty20 Cup is something Durham fans will be looking forward to.
With such an abundance of internationally experienced players, it will be no surprise to see Durham right up there and challenging for titles once again in 2008.
In: Neil McKenzie, Albie Morkel, Mark
Stoneman, Luke Evans
Out: Ottis Gibson, Scott Styris
County Championship Division One: 4th
Pro40 Division One: 2nd
Friends Provident Trophy: Semi-Finals
Twenty20 Cup: Finals Day
Star Man: Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Top Tip: Phil Mustard
By John Pennington