Ben Stokes' imminent return the shining light amidst the Durham gloom

Durham's injury list is growing by the day but at least England all-rounder Ben Stokes had some encouraging news yesterday

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Ashar Zaidi of Sussex walks off after being bowled out by Chris Rushworth of Durham
Ashar Zaidi of Sussex walks off after being bowled out by Chris Rushworth of Durham

Things are just not going for Durham at the moment.

Yesterday Graham Clark defied a broken finger to play for the second team against Lancashire – and promptly strained his hamstring.

Durham’s injury list, which also includes Graham Onions, is mounting. Yesterday there was a glimmer of light, although England will get more benefit from it than Durham.

Ben Stokes had a scan on his broken wrist and should be playing cricket before the week is up.

He will not feature in Friday’s Twenty20 Cup opener against Worcestershire, or the next County Championship game at Somerset.

However, the shining light of England’s winter may get two four-day games to prove his fitness before the Test season begins at Lord’s in mid-June.

“He had good scan results so he will start to ramp up his skills work,” Durham coach Jon Lewis explained. “He has been doing skills work all along to stay in shape but now he can start batting and bowling.

“Batting will not take too long, the problem is if we get giddy with his bowling and get him injured doing something else too quickly. We’ll increase his workload gradually.

“He won’t play at Somerset, but we’ll see after that.

“He’ll play some cricket by the weekend, but not for the first team.

“When you sit him down one to one he’s been quite sensible in realising how difficult it is going to be for him and giving himself an opportunity to get it right and come back at the appropriate pace.

“In a group of people, it’s different!

“We’ll get him on the field as quickly as we can.”

If the news about Stokes was encouraging, Onions struggles are more worrying.

The fast bowler has been remarkably injury-free since what could have been a career-ending back problem wiped out his 2010 season, so any problem to the part of the body is bound to be a worry.

He is the leader of Durham’s attack and to lose him and Stokes for any period could be extremely damaging.

Only 17.4 overs were possible on the second day of Durham’s Championship game at Sussex yesterday but, having gone off early on day one, Onions took no part in them.

Nor is he expected to be seen on the field for the last two days.

He joins an injury list which also includes Jamie Harrison, Usman Arshad, Paul Coughlin, Josh Bousefield and Max Morley.

Lewis added: “It his back, that’s all I really know.

. “He’s going to have to see a specialist to work out what needs to happen.

“There’s no rush. I’d be extraordinarily surprised if he was to take the field in this game.

“We have a T20 on Friday, and I’d still be extraordinarily surprised (if he played in that), then we have Somerset (in the Championship, starting Sunday). We’ll have to wait and see – he’ll see a specialist before that.

“Bus journeys aren’t the best thing for the bowlers at times. We had a masseur down here, hopefully to make it easier, but bowlers get injured, unfortunately.

“We’ve talked about planes and stuff like that. They’re quicker but they’re also more expensive and everyone’s careful about budgets nowadays so it’s not an area we’re likely to push any more money into.”

Arshad did not bowl yesterday because of his own back problem, but may well have given it a go had heavy rain on the stroke of lunch not wiped out play for the day. Harrison is touch and go to return against Worcestershire because of a blistered foot.

Finances have left Lewis a threadbare squad, so he must juggle his resources shrewdly. It is unlikely to mean a weakened side on Friday, but maybe later in the competition.

“With the exception of Onions, I don’t think we’ll be using Friday’s game to rest players,” said the coach. “Four overs doesn’t sound like a massive amount but the game itself can take a lot out of you and 24 hours without a game can be a bonus.

“We would like to think both (Mark) Wood and (Chris) Rushworth will be very keen to play.

“If you lose Onions, Rushworth gets up towards 35 overs bowled and Wood 30 in only his second game back. You run the risk of something happening to Rushworth or Wood, which would set us back again.

“It’s a juggling act, a balance. We want to win games of cricket and they’re important games.”

Meanwhile, the England and Wales Cricket Board have confirmed Chester-le-Street will host the fifth one-day international between England and New Zealand next summer on June 20.


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