Durham will look to sign another overseas player after it emerged that John Hastings will miss the final two matches of the season.
The Australian will sit out the games at home to Northamptonshire and at Warwickshire as he has been called up by Chennai Super Kings to play in the Champions League Twenty20 competition in India.
With Durham dropping into the County Championship Division One relegation zone this week, the final two matches could be crucial to their hopes of staying in the division.
With Jamie Harrison set for an operation, Graham Onions and Mark Wood highly doubtful and Usman Arshad only making his return from a back injury as a Chester-le-Street batsman this weekend, Durham’s resources will be hugely depleted.
“We will look to see if the right overseas player becomes available and if we can bring them in,” said coach Jon Lewis. “There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ in there, I know!
“There’s a minimum period a player can be registered for, but there’s nothing to stop us registering him while John is, it’s just we can only play one overseas player at a time.
“We kind of have to have things in place by the start of September.” Financial constraints saw Durham go into the campaign with a much-reduced squad, so this end-of-season bowler shortage is hardly a surprise.
But it seems the Riversiders are prepared to dig deep to maintain their status as the longest-serving team in Division One. Quality options, though, will inevitably be thin on the ground.
This is the first season since 2009 Durham have had an overseas player in all forms of the game.
Hastings was unavailable for the first couple of months because he was part of Chennai’s squad at the Indian Premier League, although he only made one appearance as they reached the semi-finals, qualifying for the global Twenty20 tournament.
In his absence Durham signed batsman Kumar Sangakkara, although by the time the deal was finalised, the Sri Lankan was only available for two games.
Sangakkara is top of the county’s 2014 Championship batting averages, while Hastings heads the bowling list. Although signed primarily for his bowling prowess, his four-day batting average is higher than Keaton Jennings, Paul Collingwood, Ben Stokes and Phil Mustard’s.
Lewis admitted the call-up had caught the county by surprise.
“When he started we had confirmation from Victoria that they weren’t going to need him back early for pre-season training,” he said.
“So when we got that we were hopeful we might have him for the whole season.
Now it looks like the Middlesex game (from September 9-12) will be his last one for us this season.”
Hastings would be available for the Royal London Cup semi-finals if Durham can beat Yorkshire on Thursday, but not the final. Harrison (knee), Wood (ankle), Onions (side) and Usman Arshad (back) have all missed games recently with injury.
Ben Stokes will not face Nottinghamshire in the County Championship starting a week tomorrow because of England duty, but will be back for the matches against Middlesex, Northants and Warwickshire.
“Harrison’s operation is going to happen sooner rather than later so he can crack on with his rehab,” Lewis revealed.
“Wood is unlikely to play again this season, as is Graham Onions. We’ll probably work on the theory that he’s not going to be available.”
One positive piece of news is that “conversations are going well” over a new contract of Collingwood, who had been expected to retire at the end of the season.