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Collingwood replaces Mustard as Durham skipper
PAUL Collingwood is to take over as Durham's four-day captain for the second half of the season, starting with the match at Worcester next Tuesday.
After the disastrous start to the season he will have eight games in which to drag Durham away from the foot of the table.
The only surprise is that Durham have taken so long to reach this decision, although it may have been delayed by Collingwood's injury.
He broke a finger in the last championship match a month ago when struck by a ball from Warwickshire's Chris Wright.
The Friends Life t20 competition has also been an unwelcome distraction from the main business of preserving division one status in the championship.
There is every chance it will continue to prove an interference as if Durham win their two remaining group games they will almost certainly qualify for a quarter-final away from home.
That will mean two weeks on the road from next Monday, when they travel to Worcester, as they go from there to Hampshire for a CB 40 match then to Arundel for a four-day game against Sussex.
That is followed immediately by a CB 40 match against Somerset at Bath and the T20 quarter-finals come two days later on July 24.
Collingwood will take over from Phil Mustard, who has held the reins since he was the surprise choice when the captaincy was suddenly taken off Will Smith in May, 2010.
Coach Geoff Cook said: "We're delighted that Paul has agreed to take on the captaincy. His international experience is an excellent asset to the team at a time when we need to be delivering our best results.
"We are grateful for Phil Mustard's efforts as captain and he remains an integral part of the team as a key contributor behind the stumps and with the bat."
Collingwood said: "I'm excited to have the opportunity to use my experience to help us progress in the County Championship and get us back to winning ways."
Mustard last night tweeted: "Have stepped down from Captaincy today. Good look to @Colly622. A great man for the job...
... Looking forward to concentrating on my performance with the bat for Durham and overseas T20 opportunities coming up.''
After four defeats and four draws, Durham have 32 points, compared with 139 at the same stage last season. They are six adrift of Worcestershire, who have a game in hand, and a further 14 behind third bottom Surrey.
Since losing the opening match at home to Nottinghamshire, in which he made 80 in the second innings, the captaincy has not sat comfortably with Mustard. He had a top score of 45 in 12 subsequent innings and in the last eight he totalled 70.
Collingwood had shown in the last four games that he was prepared to get his head down and graft.
It was thought that he might take on the captaincy at the start of the season, but he expected to be away at the Indian Premier League until the end of May.
As it turned out, he was not required and, assuming he is available for the whole of next season, there is every reason to expect he will continue as captain.
He led the team in the first three CB 40 matches this season when Dale Benkenstein was injured.
It will be interesting to see whether Collingwood can use his influence with former England team-mate Steve Harmison to coax the best out of him.
Harmison played in the last three championship games before the T20 break, taking six wickets at 38 apiece. He was reported to be still struggling in the second team game at Brandon last week, so it will be a tough decision over whether to play him at Worcester.