Head coach Jon Lewis knows Durham’s hopes of progression in the Royal London Cup hinge on their ability to put away Nottinghamshire Outlaws today.
The 50-over format has seen Durham winning just two of their six games, rained off after just 14 overs against Middlesex on Sunday.
Going into today’s scheduled 10.30am start Lewis’ side are one place and one point outside the top four, with Warwickshire breathing down their necks.
With Surrey also due to visit in Thursday’s final group fixture, Lewis said: “We have two very big games coming up.
“Notts are one place above us in the group with a game in hand as well and it will be a big game if we can take the points off them.
“That would put us into a very strong position going into the last game and Surrey are still a dangerous side even though they have not got going yet.
“They will come here expecting to do well in any white-ball competition, given how well they have done in the T20, but Notts is the next one and it is important we get a result.”
The Outlaws are third in the standings and set fair to push through to the next phase, Lewis adding: “Notts have a good squad and they will be confident of coming up here and getting the result that they want.
“They are in a good position in the competition and it is not as if they will be placing a secondary importance on it.
“They were knocked out of the T20, which will be hard for them to take, and they will want to make an impact on the 50-over stuff.”
Ben Stokes has been released by England to play in today’s fixture, retaining his place in an unchanged 14-man squad.
With the ECB having this season gone up from 40 overs to tie the domestic game to the same paramaters as the international game, Lewis insists the Royal London Cup has been a useful exercise despite a mixed bag of results.
Having seen his side win at Glamorgan last Friday on a poor pitch, he added: “We have taken a lot from this competition.
“Without wanting to sound funny we could have been played four, won four, because we were in winning positions in all of our first four games.
“Sunday’s game never really got started because of the rain, but we have played good cricket.
“OK, we have had poor patches of play within that which have been costly, and that is the reason we have lost three out of those first four.
“In most of the games we have lost we were probably the dominant side, which is very encouraging, but it is just a shame we were unable to finish off two more of them.”
A hotch-potch fixture list sees Durham potentially sitting on their hands next week to learn whether or not they will go through to the next stage of the competition.
Lewis said: “I thought most teams were finishing this week with us, but it appears a lot of them are going on into next week as well.
“They have squeezed all our games into the first half of the tournament for some reason so we will be sitting and waiting on other scores, but let’s see if we can be sat there waiting for something to happen for us in terms of going through to the later stages.”
Refusing to hit out at a schedule which has seen his side ferried to all corners of the country, the head coach added: “I like it being a national competition and it is good we get to play sides from both the south and the north.
“The cricket is sometimes played a bit differently down south which tends to mean higher scores, whereas sometimes up here 250 can be a winning total.”