Paul Collingwood’s winter job with Scotland has paid dividends for Durham after they beat the competition to sign Calum MacLeod.
The 25-year-old batsman will be on loan at Chester-le-Street in April, a signing announced after his incredible 175 off 141 balls moved Scotland a step closer to qualifying for the 2015 World Cup.
The Scots are being coached by Collingwood at the New Zealand tournament, but it was during his time as assistant coach at a similar pre-Christmas competition to reach the World Twenty20 (Scotland failed to) Durham decided to move for MacLeod.
Impressed by the right-hander, the Durham captain set up a deal.
Coach Jon Lewis said: “Paul came back from the Twenty20s in November and told us about Calum.
“We spoke to the right people in Scotland before Christmas and asked if they were keen on Calum spending some time with us and playing some one-day stuff and three and four-day cricket with the second team.
“After the reorganisation of the one-day competition (which will see the 50-over Royal London Cup replace the 40-over version) Scotland aren’t involved, so they were in favour.
“They have one-day internationals in May, so it suited them quite well to take him for April. “I’m quite glad we had the conversation before Christmas because the way he played in New Zealand (MacLeod’s century against Canada was his second in a row) will have alerted other people.”
MacLeod was Scotland’s youngest debutant when he played as a 19-year-old.
However, he made little impact in three seasons with Warwickshire, or at second-team level with Kent and Northamptonshire.
“He hasn’t been that successful against us at second-team level,” added Lewis, who until June was Durham’s second-team coach, “but that doesn’t make him a bad player.”
MacLeod played two first-class games for Warwickshire, scoring 26 runs and taking five wickets.
In 2010 his bowling action was reported and, while it has been remodelled to the International Cricket Council’s satisfaction, he has concentrated on his batting since.
MacLeod bats in the middle order for Scotland in red-ball cricket but opens in the shorter forms.
Hopefully, by the time MacLeod’s loan is over Durham might be clearer as to Ben Stokes’ situation.
The Cockermouth-raised all-rounder has shown himself to be an important part of England’s future plans with impressive performances with bat and ball during the Test and one-day international parts of the tour of Australia.
However, while it is a certainty Stokes will play little county cricket in 2014, he has not yet received the central contract without which Durham cannot afford to sign a replacement.
Lewis said: “I’m not expecting anything to change with Ben. Central contracts are usually sorted out in September.”
A central contract means England would pay Stokes’ wageswhereas at present he is on an incremental deal, meaning the Riversiders receive £2,000 after each international appearance the 22-year-old makes.
Lewis, though, is keen to stress he has no problem with the status quo.
He added: “The ECB have quite a bit of say over what he does. but I’m not complaining. We’re just proud our guy is playing for England.”
Graeme Swann’s retirement from cricket after the third Test may allow England to award Stokes a central contract sometime between now and the start of the English season.
The absence of Stokes and potentially Scott Borthwick, who made his Test debut in the final match of the Ashes series - added to the release of Will Smith - will put pressure on Durham’s batting next season.
However, they are hopeful limited-overs captain Dale Benkenstein will return from last year’s shoulder operation having played club cricket in South Africa this month.
Meanwhile, Namibia need 221 from 37.5 overs to beat Scotland in the first game of the Super Six stage in New Zealand today.
MacLeod made ten in Scotland’s 279-9 after opting to bat first, but Namibia were only able to make 59-2 before rain ended play, taking the game into a reserve day.