THROUGHOUT this curious Twenty20 campaign, Durham have suffered a peculiar sort of inconsistency.
When the batsmen catch fire, loose bowling has usually doused the flames of a Dynamos revival.
And when the bowlers find form, it has invariably deserted those entrusted with the bat to leave them looking short.
Consequently, when they’ve been bad they have tended to be excruciatingly poor.
When they hit form, however – as they did yesterday against a shell-shocked Leicestershire Foxes – they look like the sort of team that is capable of making a real impact in this competition.
A nine-wicket Friends Life t20 North Group victory over Matthew Hoggard’s not-so-wily Foxes was exactly what Durham needed after the humiliation at the hands of Nottinghamshire Outlaws on Friday.
“The game on Friday was disappointing but all credit to the guys for coming back and being very comfortable,” Phil Mustard said after yesterday’s victory. He was not joking.
Achieved with 40 balls remaining, it is the biggest Durham victory in this form of the game and with Derbyshire nicking a surprise win at Lancashire it means that the all-important third spot in the north group, and with it a place in the knockout stages, is still attainable.
That it was achieved with the sort of tight, compact bowling effort that has too often been missing from the Dynamos in t20 this summer will be of particular pleasure to Geoff Cook, as the coach dares to dream that Durham might finally have an answer to their inconsistency issues.
There were no real standout stars of Durham’s attack, just a crop of bowlers who bowled with consistency – both in line and length – and patrolled the Leicestershire batsmen throughout their 20 overs.
Only Abdul Razzaq was able to construct any kind of innings but even he found it tough going as Durham began with real purpose.
From the first 15 balls they conceded just two runs, a spell that they will do well to repeat this season.
Razzaq then took off by biffing two fours and a six from the final deliveries of Chris Rushworth’s second over – but it was to prove a false Foxes dawn.
There were only seven more boundaries in the entire innings as Graham Onions, Scott Borthwick and Gareth Breese ensured a steady turnover of wickets, to prevent Leicestershire from ever generating any momentum.
Ben Stokes delivered the prized scalp of Razzaq in the final over as he finished with handy figures of 2/14.
A target of 117 was manna from heaven for the bruised confidence of Durham’s batsmen – but even with such a low score to chase, they were impressive.
Mustard enjoyed his more profitable partnership with Herschelle Gibbs, and their impressive 82 opening stand gave the Dynamos the foundation for this comfortable victory.
Gibbs, again, was a joy to watch but Mustard played with a real poise and panache. If there was to be a complaint, it was that his dismissal – lbw while trying to play a reverse sweep – was a touch frustrating.
“I was really looking forward to playing with Herschelle, but so far it’s been a bit frustrating,” Mustard admitted.
“We haven’t got off to the best of starts with me running him out the other day, but it’s nice to get an 80-odd partnership and hopefully that will now move us forward.
“I set my target at the start of the season to get 200 – that hasn’t happened yet but hopefully I can get 100 in the final two games and we can go from there.”
After Mustard perished Stokes entered the fray with Durham in complete command and the freedom to play his shots.
Still, there was a typical note of bravado about his shot to win it for the home side – a huge six over mid-wicket to bring up the simplest of wins.
The message was clear: Durham will not go quietly in this season’s t20