DALE Benkenstein has urged Durham fans to make the difference today as the Riversiders push for the second trophy of a remarkable season.
They entertain Glamorgan knowing victory will guarantee promotion from Division Two of the Pro40 League at the first attempt and, if promotion-chasing Middlesex win at leaders Somerset, the title too.
Sky’s cameras will be at Chester-le-Street to see if they can, but captain Benkenstein has urged supporters to cheer on the side from the stands, rather than staying at home. And the 33-year-old pointed to Durham’s first trophy success this season as an example of the difference they can make.
They thrashed Hampshire by 125 runs in last month’s Friends Provident Trophy and although the weather dragged the final into a second day, Durham supporters drowned out their southern counterparts on the Saturday at Lord’s.
“I was batting at the end of our innings and the fans were amazing,” recalled Benkenstein, whose 61 not out from 43 balls was crucial in tipping the momentum behind his side. “We could really feel the support of the North-East and it made a big difference.
“Every ball we could hear their support and the atmosphere was as good as a one-day international.
“We could really feel the passion and it emphasised just how important it was to win the county’s first major trophy. It would be nice to get the chance to thank as many people as possible for their support today.”
The division’s top two automatically win promotion, the third-placed side playing-off against seventh in Division One next week to decide which plays in 2008’s top-flight.
Durham’s final home game of 2007 will be a celebration as they parade the Friends Provident Trophy after the match. While vital in its own right, the match could be important in the wider context of a treble-chasing season.
Television cameras were present at the same stage of last season as Durham’s campaign ended in circumstances that were in some ways similar, in others completely opposite. The hosts were fighting relegation from Division One of the 40-over competition, then at Headingley in the County Championship. They failed on the first count but not the second.
Twelve months on, their final games in each competition will be equally important but Durham will be competing for silverware not safety, with the Championship pennant a possibility if they beat Kent at Canterbury next week.
“We’ve got two games left and we’re where we want to be,” said Benkenstein. “Last season we had the same pressure at the end of the season but in totally different circumstances.
“From our point of view it would be great to play a good game going into next week and the most important game of most of our careers.”
Today’s match starts at the earlier time of 12.45pm with tickets £15 for adults and £6 for juniors. Gates open at 11am.
Batsman Garry Park will be hoping his second-team form earns a recall after being named in a 12-man squad.
For supporters unable to travel to Canterbury for the four-day game, starting on Wednesday, BBC Radio Newcastle will broadcast ball-by-ball commentary from the St Lawrence Ground on the internet.
Third-placed Durham are 8.5 points behind Lancashire.
DURHAM (from): Mustard (wk), Di Venuto, Coetzer, Benkenstein (c), Park, B Harmison, G Muchall, Breese, Gibson, Plunkett, Wiseman, Killeen.