Durham are set to unleash big-hitting Calum MacLeod on the revamped Twenty20 Cup tonight.
The remodelled competition, rebranded the T20 Blast, starts at Chester-le-Street this evening, where Worcestershire are the visitors.
And while the Jets, as they are now called in the competition, will be without Kumar Sangakkara who has joined up with Sri Lanka, they could have a secret weapon up their sleeve.
MacLeod is on loan from Scotland, having caught the eye of Paul Collingwood, and was this week registered to face Worcestershire.
“Scottish cricket are quite happy with the situation as long as he’s available when they need him, and he played for them against England last week,” said coach Jon Lewis .
“It wasn’t easy for him in the first few weeks when there wasn’t a lot of great cricket, but our Second XI’s Twenty20 competition is under way and he’s done well. He got 103 off 57 balls against Yorkshire last week.”
Collingwood was on Scotland’s coaching staff during the qualifying competitions for the 20 and 50-over World Cups. He was suitably impressed by what he saw of the 25-year-old to persuade him to join Durham before his 175 from 141 balls against Canada in the longer of the two competitions. It is the second-highest score by an “Associate” player (one to represent a minor nation) in a one-day international.
MacLeod had two seasons with Warwickshire in 2008 and 2009, but failed to make an impact. He was released amid concerns over his bowling action, which was reported for throwing.
The Glaswegian concentrated on batting after his release, but his bowling has been used by Durham’s second team this season. As well as his big score against Yorkshire, he has made runs against Durham’s seconds in a series of friendlies with Scotland this month.
MacLeod opens for Scotland in limited-overs cricket, but is expected to bat at three this evening, with Twenty20 captain Mark Stoneman resisting the temptation for the extra breathing space of coming in first wicket down.
“I think the experience of last year and the games I did gave me a good insight into how to go about the game as a captain,” said Stoneman, who deputised for Collingwood in all forms of the game last term. “It slightly changes your timings having to do the toss and get all that out of the way, but once you get used to that, it’s business as usual really.”
Graham Onions will not play after suffering a back injury against Sussex in the County Championship. MacLeod’s compatriot, Gavin Main, is not in tonight’s squad, perhaps to ensure he is fit to deputise for Onions in the four-day game at Somerset, which starts on Monday.
Lewis and Stoneman will have to consider the heavy workload Mark Wood and Chris Rushworth have had recently before naming their team, but the former said this week he expects both to feature in an attack which could have as many as three spinners.
Gordon Muchall and perhaps Ryan Pringle are set to make their first appearances of the season, with Keaton Jennings expected to drop out.
DURHAM (from): Stoneman (c), Mustard (wk), MacLeod, Borthwick, Collingwood, Richardson, Muchall, Breese, Pringle, Arshad, Wood, Harrison, Rushworth, Jennings