DALE Benkenstein is set to play cricket for Durham into his forties after being offered a two-year contract extension.
The 37-year-old is due to sign a new deal taking him to the end of the 2014 season, his tenth at the county.
Benkenstein is Durham’s most prolific run-scorer in First-Class cricket after passing Jon Lewis’ tally in June.
The first Durham captain to win the County Championship (a year earlier in 2007 he led the side to its first major silverware), Benkenstein stood down shortly afterwards. Last season he somewhat reluctantly took charge of the limited-overs teams.
He will do so again this year, and yesterday led Durham on their now-annual pre-season trip to Dubai. The Riversiders tried and failed to entice him back as captain in 2010, but he preferred a back seat as a mentor to Phil Mustard.
Benkenstein (pictured right) thought taking the limited-overs reins the following season would allow him to be rested occasionally from the four-day side after a disappointing and injury-hit 2010.
Unusually, he had failed to reach county cricket’s gold standard of 1,000 First-Class runs for the campaign. Instead, he was an ever-present in 2011, and only the second batsman in the country to pass the four-figure-mark that season, after Marcus Trescothick.
On the same day he set a new Durham landmark for First-Class runs. His tally currently stands at 8,205.
He also led the Riversiders to the 2011 Twenty20 Cup quarter-finals and the 40-over semi-finals.
Benkenstein is widely expected to be offered a coaching role when he retires. Chief executive David Harker has spoken in the past of his desire to create a “boot room” allowing future coaches to come from within.
Lewis, Alan Walker and Neil Killeen have all moved from the playing to the coaching staff, and 38-year-old opener Michael Di Venuto spends his winters coaching Tasmania.
Benkenstein made 23 one-day international appearances for South Africa between 1998 and 2002, but is now English-qualified.
His Lancashire League performances earned him a trial in 2004, and he joined as a Kolpak player the following year. It is no coincidence Durham’s fortunes have followed an upward curve ever since.