Tuesday, March 30, 2010
County Championship- Durham preview
I would like to preview all the nine teams in the first division of the county championship. First up, I would like to have a look at Durham. Durham played their first first class match in 1992, but were able to win the county championship in just 16 years in 2008 and they repeated the feat in 2009 as well. It is indeed a great achievement that Durham could win a county championship so soon and were able to repeat the feat last year as well.
Durham have been well served by a battery of quick bowlers and this time too they have a very good attack. I always felt that Riverside ground at Chester-le-street would have some encouragement for the quicker bowlers. Durham fans would know better than me, but whenever I saw a match at the Riverside, there was some sideways movement on offer.
The bowling attack
To win first class matches a good bowling attack is necessary and if I look at the Durham side, I can safely say that they do have a good attack. Harmison in County cricket looks a different prospect altogether and his pace and bounce has always been too hot to handle for the County batsmen. I really like Onions as a bowler as he never seems to lose his focus and makes the batsmen play more often than not. To be frank, making the batsmen play nowadays has become a rarity and it is refreshing to see someone doing it regularly. I also reckon that he has a decent bouncer which can be hard to pick as he has a quick arm action. The one drawback I can see is, he tends to take a few overs before he gets into his rhythm. He has had problems with a back injury in recent times and it seems to be more serious than first thought. If fit, he also would likely play for the England side, but whatever games he would be available, I'm certain that he can make a mark.
Durham also have Plunkett, Davies, Thorp, Claydron etc. I have always liked Plunkett as a bowler as he can get late swing at decent pace. His action was changed by Shine which doesn't help, but seems to have gone back to his old action and got wickets last year in CC. I do get the feeling though, when things aren't going right for him, he can lose his way quickly. Davies has been a consistent performer for Durham and I do think he is a decent bowler as he can bowl line and length, but the problem can be, he always seems to get injured. If I'm right even now he has got an ankle problem. Durham would be hoping that he can soon get fit as he is a important member of the side. The Aussie Thorp did well last year and the Durham management would be hoping he can do the same this year. The problem though can be Onions, Plunkett and Davies are recovering from injuries. So their bowling maybe tested with younger players like Evans or maybe Breese getting a chance. Borthwick is also in the squad, but I always get the feeling that unlike Aussies, the captains at county level or those who lead the England team just seem to be frightened of using the leg spinners as they can get hit.
Batting line up
Durham is captained by Smith and to his credit he has led them to a championship victory in 09. Having said that, I'm not convinced about his batting as with his open stance he always seems to be a candidate to be opened up by outswingers and edging it to the slips or getting out lbw. He was very good in 2008, but hasn't been consistent enough as a batsman. I have always liked Benkenstein as a batsman as he looks like a compact player. In the late 90's he was tipped to take over from Cronje as the South African captain, but for some reason it didn't work out for him, but has done well for Durham. Of course the mainstay of their batting is DiVenuto. He is a typical Australian batsman as he is strong square off the wicket on either side. Actually, if not for Mark Waugh and Gilly he would have played lot more onedayers for the Australian team, but there is no doubt that he has been a prolific run-getter in county cricket. Let it be for Durham or Derbyshire, he has consistently scored runs.
Among other players, Muchall looked like a decent prospect at the under 19 level, but hasn't been able to do well for Durham. If I'm right he did well back in 04, but hasn't been consistent enough. I think it is high time he starts getting runs and the same can be said about Coetzer. Stoneman too has to perform this season and to be frank from whatever I have seen of him, I wasn't that impressed. Phil Mustard is a hard-hitting wicketkeeper batsman and I still can't understand why he was dropped from the England one-day team. I haven't talked anything about the gritty Colly, but with him having a central contact and and England team playing so many matches, I don't see him being available most of the time.
The first name that can come into anyone's mind would be the former Somerset all-rounder Blackwell. The beefy Blackwell has a very simple approach to batting as he uses his power to hit through the line. The day he does well, the opposition would be in real trouble as he can score quickly and demoralise the opposition ranks. I think his left arm spin is a bit underrated too as he can bowl clever changes of pace. Durham also do have Gidman, Ben Stokes and Ben Harmison. Gidman is usually compared to his brother Alex, but unlike his brother it looks like he is more of a bowling all-rounder. He has also struggled to break into the main side. Stokes impressed everyone with his all-round skills in the under 19 world cup and hopefully he can do well in CC as well. Ben Harmison can bowl decent medium pace and can bat a bit, but has been in and out of the squad. If a few of their main players are injured, he may still get few chances this season. The side also has Breese, but he has rarely played for them in recent times.
Finally, it won't be a huge surprise if Durham win the 2010 championship as the side looks well balanced, though Notts may challenge their supremacy this season. If I have to ever pick a weakness, it could be some of their main bowlers like Onions, Plunkett and Davies are recovering from injuries, so the team may find it a bit tougher during the first few matches and both Onions and Plunkett can play for England. Having said that they still have Harmison to terrorise the county batsmen and youngsters like Evans may do well .