GOOD bowling let down by poor batting has been the story of Durham’s 2012. With the Twenty20 Cup following the same script as the County Championship, the Riversiders are considering “freshening up” their side for tonight’s visit of Derbyshire.
But the established stars frozen out of this season’s competition should not get too excited – their prospects of playing the shortest form of the game this year remain pretty slim.
Rather than make sweeping personnel changes from the team hammered on television at Old Trafford on Monday, the plan is to shuffle the batting order.
“You don’t rush into things but we had a chat in the dressing room after the (Lancashire) game and sometimes you need to freshen things up,” coach Geoff Cook reflected. “It might be a case of giving batsmen different roles, rather than bringing in players.
“I don’t think it will be difficult for the batsmen to take on a different role at such short notice. The players are aware of the different tasks that are necessary. People would like the opportunity of going in with the new ball but we’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”
Durham are halfway through the group stage, and it is becoming clear where the problems lie.
“It’s been a mixed bag,” Cook admitted. “We’ve had two wins and three losses.
“We’ve played well in three matches, one of which we lost to Yorkshire. The other two defeats were disappointing in terms of our batting.
“You can still win games with scores of 120, but on pitches like the one we played on at Old Trafford this week, it’s very difficult. We’ve only got one guy (Herschelle Gibbs) who’s made a 50. Our top (team) score is 159. To consistently have a chance in these games you need the batters batting for longer.
“Generally the bowlers have been pretty impressive. We’ve only conceded more than 150 once (at home to Yorkshire). As a unit the seamers have done well and (Scott) Borthwick on occasions has been really effective.”
The changes are likely to be confined to the middle order. Will Smith is in a 13-man squad and pushing for his first Twenty20 appearance this season.
The top three of Gibbs, wicketkeeper Phil Mustard and Ben Stokes is likely to remain unchanged.
The latter pair are yet to fire in 20-over cricket this term but Mustard is Durham’s all-time top-scorer in the format, and all-rounder Stokes theoretically their player best suited to it. “Generally you want your best players, your likely match-winners, to have the longest opportunity to bat and win you those games,” Cook reasoned.
“With Gibbs, Mustard and Stokes we have got guys with the ability to win games.”
There are plenty of match-winners playing for the second team against Northamptonshire at Brandon, but Michael Di Venuto, Ian Blackwell, Stephen Harmison and Callum Thorp have largely been written off as one-day cricketers.
Limited-overs captain Dale Benkenstein is a huge fan of Di Venuto, but, like Harmison, he has hardly played white-ball cricket in the past couple of years. Durham have preferred to keep 37-year-old Thorp fresh for the Championship. Blackwell has only played in the Championship for the county this year and the 34-year-old all-rounder who won all his England caps in limited-overs cricket also seems to have been written off.
“It’s a first run-out for a while for quite a few individuals – the likes of Blackwell, Di Venuto, Harmison and Thorp are getting invaluable practice,” Cook said.
“We’ve got two vital games this week and it would be tough for anyone to go into it without a pre-amble.”
Harmison, Thorp and Blackwell took wickets on yesterday’s opening day as the visitors made 318-5.
DURHAM (from): Gibbs, Mustard (wk), Stokes, Myburgh, Benkenstein (c), Muchall, Smith, Breese, Plunkett, Borthwick, Claydon, Onions, Rushworth.