Sunday sees the start of Durham’s season at Northampton. The lads can’t wait, especially those like me who have been at home all winter.
Spending most of the winter in the indoor school gets a bit repetitive, so it’s been nice to get into the swing of things outside.
We were treated to some good weather in Abu Dhabi and Kent, and although the rain came down on the first scheduled day of cricket at Chester-le-Street this year, our game against Durham University still turned into a worthwhile exercise.
It would have been nice to win but hopefully all the cobwebs have been blown away, and that’s the main thing from pre-season.
It was good to see Graham Onions get a run-out yesterday, and for Paul Collingwood to make a century on Tuesday. It will do them both some good.
So now it’s time to look ahead to the new season.
Last year my big target was to reach 50 First-Class wickets, which I’m pleased to say I did.
This time around there’s no big figure in mind, although without putting myself under too much pressure, I’d like to do that again. If I can bowl as I have done for the last season-and-a-half, there’s certainly no reason why I can’t.
It’s important I have a good season, because we’ve all got to step up after the loss of key players like Will Smith, Dale Benkenstein and Callum Thorp this winter.
We’re still quite an inexperienced side, with the likes of myself, Mark Wood, Jamie Harrison, Usman Arshad and Michael Richardson still to play 50 First-Class games.
There will be a lot of pressure on us to take extra responsibility. It’s crucial the guys that have played the last couple of years and done okay step up and have a really good few years.
I’m looking forward to that.
Durham have always had a strong bowling attack, and I can’t see this year being any different. Opening the bowling with Onions last year we were able to set the tone in a lot of matches, and I’m hoping we can do that again.
Scott Borthwick doesn’t turn 24 until a week on Saturday, but after the experience he had over the winter, making his Test debut in the New Year’s Test at Sydney, he probably feels quite confident about himself now and ready to step up a level.
He was fantastic last year so there’s no reason why after getting to 1,000 Championship runs last season he and Mark Stoneman can’t reach the 1,200 or 1,400-run mark.
For the first time in five years, we’re also going to have an overseas player in all forms of the game.
John Hastings won’t arrive until his Indian Premier League season is over, but when he does it will only strengthen the bowling. It will be a nice little boost when he arrives, especially for our one-day cricket.
I’m looking forward to picking the brains of a full Australian international, particularly when he’s fresh from the IPL. But we can’t afford to wait for him.
There’s a lot of Championship cricket played in the first two months of the season, and if you can pick up two or three wins in the first few weeks we can rediscover that form and momentum we finished last season with and it will stand us in good stead.
Starting at Northants will be interesting, because I’ve never played four-day cricket against them.
They’ve got a few injuries and, having been in Division Two all these years, they’ll be slightly unfamiliar to us.
But the thing for us last season was that our homework on opposition sides improved so much with the help of our analysts.
For bowlers it helps a great deal when you can see the way guys are getting out and where they like to score runs. We know all about Kyle Coetzer, but not so much about his team-mates.
It makes a huge difference to go into every game with a plan. It just makes everything easier and you’re less rushed to come up with things at the time.
I would have thought Northants will be competitive because they played some good cricket to win Division Two last season and they all seem to know their games quite well. They will come in with confidence, and know their ground a lot better than we do.
I just can’t wait for the talking to stop and the cricket to start.