It seems a new name has emerged on the shortlist of candidates to replace Paolo Di Canio as Sunderland’s next football manager.
Needing someone with a track record of squeezing results out of a team with little experience of the league they are playing in while operating on a small budget, Ellis Short has invited Paul Collingwood to Sunday’s home game against Liverpool.
Durham fans can rest easy. Collingwood may be a Black Cats fan but he does not speak about himself in the third person, never mind in Italian.
His team are only going to the Stadium of Light to show off the County Championship trophy.
Yesterday, Hove could not offer the champions anything remotely close to the energy of a sold-out football stadium hosting a big televised game.
Durham’s final match of a remarkable season, away to Sussex, has been as dreary as the thick fog which smothered the life out of it yesterday.
Even Ben Stokes falling foul of the umpires with some unnecessary verbals could not change that. The day’s play was not 45 minutes old when the umpires were pulling on jackets which have probably sat in their bags for months.
It would be a day to remind cricket fans how fortunate we have been this season – particularly those who have had the privilege of watching Collingwood’s young Durham team defy the odds.
Three times the players came off for fog, none more farcical than the last. Play had been under way for all of two deliveries after a lunch interval during which a south-coast sea fret gradually descended.
They were off for 16 minutes until being waved back, but before Steve Magoffin had been able to send down another delivery the fog returned and the players disappeared.
That was at 2.13pm. They never came back. It was that kind of a day – or at least that sort of afternoon.
With the exception of an eight-minute delay for more mist, it had been a full morning session – but one which meandered dreadfully.
This game has had end-of-season written all over it. Even an afternoon spent down the road at the Labour Party Conference might have been more fun. Possibly.
Luke Wright could have enlivened it, but Chris Rushworth spoilt that by splattering his stumps. A drive for four to only the second legitimate delivery of the day, and another played virtually with one hand as the top glove came off the bat, suggested Wright could continue the entertainment of the previous innings.
However, two balls later a ball from Rushworth shot through the cracked pitch and sent middle and leg stumps flying.
Later, another to Ben Brown reared up at him, but the pitch did not misbehave anything like enough for Durham’s liking. If anything, Ashar Zaidi looked like he wanted to hurry things up a bit, pulling his first ball behind square for six.
At the other end, Brown had no such pretensions, tootling along to a 128-ball 50.
Usman Arshad was pitching the ball up but most of the swing he found was willow at leather.
Brown’s single from his 53rd ball delivered ended a remarkable sequence of every delivery being either a dot, wicket or four, but Arshad conceded more than a boundary an over, 64 of the 73 runs he leaked coming that way.
Rather than deal with the problems of a messed-up Monty Panesar any longer or develop local leg-spinner Will Beer, Sussex chose instead to pluck Zaidi – a Pakistani with a British passport – from the Lancashire League.
His 83-run partnership with Brown frustrated the life out of Durham and it spilled over when Stokes had him out edging to second slip.
Stokes had something to say about the dismissal, prompting quite a lot more talking.
Zaidi marched to Jeremy Lloyds’ end to complain. The umpire called Collingwood over and had a more discreet word with Stokes.
The conversation with the captain was just the start – he was called into the umpires’ room at lunch.
Stokes has fallen foul twice of the England and Wales Cricket Board twice already this year – sent home from this spring’s England Lions tour for a bit too much late-night drinking, then reprimanded for a beamer playing against Bangladesh A last month.
Once Brown had taken Sussex past 300, the end was pretty swift, although Sussex exactly doubled the visitors’ paltry total.
Wicketkeeper Brown drove straight to Stokes at cover, and Chris Jordan and Magoffin picked out Collingwood and Borthwick respectively in the slips.