Attempting to wring any positives out

First published in Sport by

AS THE season limped to an inevitably lacklustre conclusion against Somerset, there was a depressing sense among most Durham fans that they'd much rather write this season off as a job badly done and try to eke some positives out of the whole depressing affair.

While Di Venuto and Benkenstein showed of the old class against Somerset, the lack of sparkle and cutting edge in the pace attack was all too evident.

Further wickets for Ruel Brathwaite and the oddly resurgent Ben Harmison provided a little comfort, but the familiar message was that this had become a season of rebuilding and that after starting clear favourites to win the County Championship, we should somehow be grateful for what we received, like a cricketing Oliver Twist.

Having rampaged through Nottinghamshire in their second innings, the manner in which Harmison produced another battling display with the bat, only to get out on 96 to the bowling, of all people, Alistair Cook, seemed to confirm his perennial bridesmaid status.

While not quite having existed in the same 'promising' bracket for Gordon Muchall, that other great nearly man, who in the second half of the season got slightly closer to that elusive 'there', there is a feeling that if Durham aren't to find themselves in a relegation scrap next season, that some of these players need to step up.

Scott Borthwick's improvement with the bat, in addition to his wicket haul at Chelmsford should be a great boost to his confidence, as was the rhythm that Ben Stokes had started to find with the ball after some majestic early season performances at the crease.

While there's no doubting Mark Stoneman has made some strides forward this season, he's never felt like a player who would go on to consistently pass 1,000 runs year in and year out and next year will perhaps prove to be make or break.

If Durham fans are to be charitable, then there's no doubting that the creaking bones of Steve Harmison and Callum Thorp caused them a multitude of problems this season, especially as Harmison looked to at times have fitness issues of the Blackwell variety.

On the subject of fitness, appearances by Mark Davies have brought out the sympathetic grandmother in Durham fans, with any movement met with a gasp, as if his legs were held together with string and blu-tak and may at any moment fall off.

One wonders what would happen if he and Sunderland's John Mensah literally ran into each other, would they collapse into pieces, like somebody had just dropped a small child's prize Lego creation.

Any chance of reinforcements this winter will inevitably be down to the accountants, with relative austerity coming to bear on cricket, just like it has on all sections of society.

The confirmation from Clive Leach that there'll be no overseas player next year is entirely economic, but it doesn't take a genius to see the massive Chanderpaul-shaped gap in the Championship winning line-up compared to this year.

With potentially only a season or two left in Benkenstein, Di Venuto and maybe even Harmison, there could be troubling times ahead for the club unless the young potential mature quicker than expected.

Perhaps even more worrying may be the financial implication of having three such big earners still on the books, especially if they can't return to their prior heights.

Durham, just like the rest of the country, may face a long winter of soul-searching and cutbacks in the face of harsh new realities.


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