DURHAM boss Geoff Cook is not allowing a gloomy weather forecast to distract his side’s attentions ahead of today’s LV County Championship clash.
The top-versus-bottom visit of Hampshire to the Emirates ICG sees Cook’s league leaders looking to home in on a third title in four years.
Currently six points clear of Lancashire with four games to go, the head coach said: “We obviously have a look at the forecasts but, as a professional, you have to just turn up expecting to play.
“If you make sure your preparations are the best they can be, then what will be will be in terms of the weather on the day. We are not worrying about it too much.” Revealing that the Riverside has been hit by the weekend deluge ahead of today’s encounter, he added: “The whole ground took a bit of a battering, the same as pretty much everywhere else in the region.
“We will just turn up this morning and see what we have to play on, but we are working on the basis that it will be fine unless we find otherwise.”
Durham found themselves deprived of maximum points last time out in the four-day format, when a rain-restricted visit of Nottinghamshire failed to reach a conclusion.
“We certainly had the better of the game, and it was disappointing not to take the full points from it,” said Cook, whose star turns included a first innings knock of 132 from opener Michael Di Venuto. “We probably had the trickiest of the batting conditions on the first day, and we managed to get four batting points.
“That is what we have to do – get ourselves established in the game – and then hopefully we can take it positively from there.”
Up against familiar opposition today, Cook’s side will be keen to avenge Sunday’s T20 mauling at the hands of Hampshire, as the Hawks make the 310-mile trip to the North East.
It is also a journey that Durham have had to contend with, however, with Cook saying: “We had flown down to Southampton but came back on the bus, so we got back at tea-time on Monday to prepare for today’s game.
“The players had a bit of a practice yesterday, but it was a long journey back after the disappointment of Sunday. It is a fresh challenge now, though, and we are looking forward to it.”
For all of Hampshire’s 20-over quarter-final joy, today’s visitors have struggled badly in the four-day format – winning none of their 10 Championship outings to date.
“That is just the nature of county cricket these days,” said the head coach.
“Sometimes you get a run in one of the competitions, and I think they have had a lot of injuries to contend with as well in the bowling department.
“That hasn’t helped them, but it is difficult for me to comment in too much detail because I am really just concentrating on my own team and what we are intending to do.”
Expecting a full-on challenge despite Hampshire’s winless run, he added: “They are a good team, and at the start of the season I was expecting them to feature highly. For various reasons that hasn’t materialised, but they have plenty of talent all right. They have got a top-class spinner in Shahid Afridi, a proper seam-bowling attack and a world-class batsman in Neil McKenzie.”
Durham are without Scott Borthwick and Ben Stokes, who join up with England Lions for their One-Day Series today, while Paul Collingwood is also missing due to the back injury he picked up in last week’s Championship match against Nottinghamshire.
Cook has named a 12-man squad, which includes Mark Stoneman and Chris Rushworth as well as Academy product Mark Wood.
DURHAM (from): MJ Di Venuto, WR Smith, MD Stoneman, GJ Muchall, DM Benkenstein, ID Blackwell, P Mustard, CD Thorp, ME Claydon, C Rushworth, G Onions, MA Wood.