When the hurly burly's done - time for a rethink

First published in Sport by

IT SEEMED fitting that the Twenty20 campaign came to an end with three fixtures which accurately surmised the plight of Durham in this form of the game.

Firstly, a bright start truncated by a brief, but almost biblical downpour which curtailed a bright start by Phil Mustard against Derbyshire, but came as a suitable rebuttal to any delusions Durham may have had of making a late charge for an undeserved quarter-final spot.

The continued warning from God which saw no play in the game against Leicestershire and finally mathematically concluded their chances of progressing, seemed like a blessing in disguise after what followed against Northamptonshire.

On a slow pitch, another abject batting performance followed and it seemed like an all-too-familiar limp towards the finish line.

Crowds and interest had dwindled as the competition progressed and comments in the press had matched up to that, with a seemingly disinterested amble towards the end of the competition.

While all concerned will want to forget the second half of the campaign as soon as possible, there must be a certain degree of soul-searching as to how Durham won fewer games than any of the other 17 counties, while admittedly suffering from the inconsistency of the English summer more than most.

Fans of statistics will be amused to know that there was only one game rained off this T20 campaign that didn't feature Durham, so there may be a small element of bad luck that came into play.

While Durham have steadfastly refused to sign an overseas player for the whole season, the role of their two expensive signings for the T20 campaign leave with very different questions marks hanging over them.

Albie Morkel may well be one of the most experienceT20 players in the world, but there's no doubting that he failed to turn in the kind of match-winning performances that his reputation suggested.

Indeed, while there were greater evidence of his talent in 2008, last time round he was outshone by Shaun Pollock.

Ross Taylor's role in the campaign remains questionable on an entirely different level, especially as Durham were all the poorer for his departure.

However, it seems questionable as to why Durham would invest in someone who would be missing for so much of the campaign without having a replacement lined up.

Perhaps next year, the policy must be to either continue to blood youngsters if the development of the championship side is the priority, or invest in players able to commit to the whole of the T20 campaign, no matter what form it takes.

While scraping around for positives, some presented itself, if you were able to wade through the mire to find them.

Mark Stoneman finally looks capable of challenging for a spot in all forms of the game and it'll be interesting if a place is found for him in the 40 over side.

Ben Harmison's continued development as an economical bowler will compliment his much-improved batting and there were signs that, with a shorter run-up, perhaps Liam Plunkett could stop leaking runs as well as being a wicket-taking threat.

The unexpected appearance of Will Smith darting in off-spin in the manner of Michael Yardy may yet present a way for him to return to the one day side as an all-rounder, while not forgetting he is still an inconsistent, but talented batsman.

While it's too early to pass judgement on Mustard's captaincy, the real test lies ahead and the hope must be that an escape from helter-skelter T20 lunacy may provide breathing and thinking space for all concerned.


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