Scott Borthwick out to upset odds again with Durham

Little will be expected of Durham this year. But having upset the odds last season, Scott Borthwick thinks they can do so again

Francois Nel/Getty Images Scott Borthwick
Scott Borthwick

Even in a 14-year-old division three holders have been relegated from the next season, few championship-winning sides have started a county cricket campaign with as little expected of them as Durham.

Yet, after the experience of last year, Scott Borthwick has no fears about upsetting the odds again.

The bookies have learnt from 2013, when many tipped the Riversiders for relegation – only for them to win County Championship Division One.

Even with that preying on them, Durham are still only fourth favourites to retain the title.

That is because their squad is inarguably weaker on paper than it was 12 months ago.

However, ahead of today’s final pre-season game at home to Durham University, all-rounder Borthwick believes, with Paul Collingwood back at the helm, anything is possible.

He said: “Last year was an incredible season. We started it off with people saying we were going to be relegated, but to go to Trent Bridge and beat an experienced Notts side (England had allowed Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to play), then go to Surrey and beat them, to go to Scarborough and beat Yorkshire, we just kept going. It was an incredible season for myself and the club.

“Colly was fantastic as captain, so hopefully we can keep it going.

“It’s going to be harder for us this year. It doesn’t matter what sport you play, when you’re the champions teams are going to try and target you.

“We’ve got a young, exciting side, so hopefully we can start really well and show people we’re a good side.”

Never mind the pressure of being targeted, the balance sheet is Durham’s biggest handicap. Will Smith, Dale Benkenstein and Callum Thorp have all left, along with other fringe players.

The only senior professional arriving in their stead, Australia bowler John Hastings, will not do so until Chennai Superkings’ Indian Premier League campaign concludes in late May or early June.

Durham could have played seven of their 16 four-day games by then.

Ben Stokes appears to have gone from uncapped Test player to England mainstay in all forms of the game over the course of the winter and Borthwick also hopes to play international cricket this summer after his Test debut in Sydney.

Of all the many positions up for grabs in the England team, the job of replacing Swann looks like being the most keenly contested amid doubts over the attitude of Monty Panesar, who would otherwise be a shoo-in.

Moeen Ali, James Tredwell, Simon Kerrigan, Stephen Parry, Ollie Rayner, Samit Patel and Danny Briggs will all look to push their cases in the early weeks of the season, but Borthwick has the advantage of plenty of work with the red ball in a winter spent in Australia, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates.”

He added: “I’ve bowled 200 overs this winter with the Grade cricket, the (Sydney Ashes) Test and then the Lions (tour of Sri Lanka).

To get another 42 in Abu Dhabi (where Durham played the MCC last month) was very good and I felt like I bowled pretty well. To get five wickets in the game and get 40-odd overs under my belt was fantastic.”

Importantly for Durham, England’s failure to reach the World Twenty20 final means Collingwood returns to lead them today.

The 37-year-old wants to play one last season with Durham before moving into coaching full-time.

With Graham Onions recovered from a foot injury, Durham’s team suddenly has a more imposing look ahead of Sunday’s Championship opener at Northampton.

DURHAM (from): Stoneman, Jennings, Borthwick, Richardson, Collingwood (c), Muchall, Mustard (wk), Breese, Arshad, Coughlin, Harrison, Rushworth, Onions.

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