Durham CCC need to quickly regroup

A RIGHT royal thrashing ended Durham’s treble bid, and coach Geoff Cook has warned his players they will have to up their game to stop Hampshire hurting their chances of winning the County Championship this week.

Durham's Ian Blackwell, in action at Chester le Street, against Yorkshire

A RIGHT royal thrashing ended Durham’s treble bid, and coach Geoff Cook has warned his players they will have to up their game to stop Hampshire hurting their chances of winning the County Championship this week.

The Riversiders have only played three knockout games in the entire history of Twenty20. Two have ended in humiliating defeat at the Rose Bowl.

Hampshire’s 55-run margin of victory was a fair reflection of the only one-sided quarter-final in the Friends Life T20 so far. Chasing an improbable 155, Durham were bowled out for double figures with nine balls to spare.

The hosts’ big threats are Imran Tahir and Shahid Afridi – described pre-match by Dale Benkenstein as “the two best leg-spinners in the world” – but 20-year-old English slow left-armer Danny Briggs claimed a career-best 5-19 and a run-out to build on a calm 56 from former Durham player Neil McKenzie.

The two sides meet in the Championship at Chester-le-Street on Wednesday, when Durham will be without two, possibly three all-rounders.

Paul Collingwood did not play on the south coast after back spasms batting in the Championship on Friday, and now faces a race to be part of a Durham side deprived of its two young stars by the England Lions.

“We will have to assess him today,” Cook said of England’s former Twenty20 captain. “We’re going to be without Scott Borthwick and Ben Stokes for the four-day game.

“It’s a big match for us now, so it’s up to the other guys to put their hands up and perform after the disappointment of not beating Nottinghamshire last week.”

So imperious before then, Championship leaders Durham have given the chasing pack of Lancashire, Somerset and Warwickshire encouragement by failing to win their last two games. The consolation for them is that Briggs has also been called up for England’s reserves when they take on Sri Lanka A this week.

But Durham will have to up their game after being outplayed in every department yesterday. Only their fielding – normally an Achilles heel – was anything like up to scratch, taking advantage of some dreadful running between the wickets with three run outs, including Afridi before the master slogger had faced a ball.

Hampshire won the toss and probably scored 30 or more runs too many with Durham’s three spinners unable to rein them in. “We were a little bit surprised at how much the wicket spun,” admitted Cook.

“When we looked at it before the match it looked reasonably solid, but it spun alarmingly.

“We probably could have adapted better to the conditions as they unfolded. We had to bowl less bad balls than they did – our boundary count was much lower. They hit 17 boundaries (four of them sixes) to our seven (two sixes).

“I thought McKenzie was outstanding. He showed a lot of experience and adaptability.” The South African never batted like that in 2008, when he played for Durham.

He only made two 50s in 13 appearances for the county, and was not used in Twenty20 cricket, the Riversiders preferring his compatriots Albie Morkel and Sean Pollock, who took them to the semi-finals. Fresh from a four-day 237 at the same ground earlier in the week, McKenzie put on 66 with Sean Ervine and 47 with Liam Dawson, playing the anchor role while others tried to smash the ball into the next county.

It allowed Hampshire to recover from a slow start and post a winning total. Knowing Tahir, Afridi and Briggs would be along soon, the Riversiders had to make the most of the six overs of powerplay while the ball was hard.

Instead they began dropping further and further behind the rate as wickets tumbled. Stokes threatened with 28 from 23, but when he was dozily stumped by a combination of his old England Under-19 team-mates in the 10th over, the game was already effectively decided.

Stokes was miles out of his crease to Briggs when the impressive Michael Bates whipped off the bails.

“Chasing over 150 was always going to be a tough ask so we needed someone to do well against the new ball,” Cook reflected.

“I think we needed to force the pace better than we did in the early stages.

“Generally this season we’ve been looking to get around about the 50-run mark in the powerplay but it didn’t happen.

“The guys couldn’t get away their new-ball bowlers, and we to only have 37 runs before their international spinners came on was always going to make it difficult.

“We needed one of the top four to get something like 50 or 60 and it never happened. That was disappointing.”

With a required run-rate that was starting to get ridiculous, Durham’s last eight wickets fell for 39.

Hampshire will be attempting to become the first team to retain the Twenty20 Cup, and the side they beat in last season’s final, Somerset, will also be at Finals Day in Edgbaston.

Leicestershire, and the winners of tonight’s Sussex v Lancashire clash will join them.

The draw for the semi-finals will be made after the game at Hove.


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