By Charlie Jennings
Where: Riverside Ground, Chester-le Street
Ins: Will Smith (Hampshire), Nathan Rimmington (Overseas), Aiden Markram (Overseas), Tom Latham (Overseas)
Outs: Paul Coughlin (Nottinghamshire), Graham Onions, Keaton Jennings (both Lancashire)
Last Season: County Championship: 9th, RLODC: Group Stage, T20: Group Stage
2018 odds: County Championship 16/1, RLODC: 25/1, T20: 25/1 - Odds powered by Oddschecker.com
Durham will be looking to put a sorry 2017 campaign behind them, a period of transition naturally ensuing after the pathetic treatment of the ECB bearing its tainted fruit last season. Dealing with a 48 point deduction in the County Championship Durham did, however, gain the respectability of not earning the dreaded wooden spoon – an admirable feat considering the aforementioned deduction. The evergreen Paul Collingwood will once again be looking to lead his troops to bigger and better things this season, with an exciting looking blend of talented youth prospects and some shrewd overseas acquisitions – notably the capture of Aiden Markram – Durham are my tip to be dark horses this year.
In Tom Latham and Markram, Durham have two batsmen with undoubted promise – if both perform to their potential and knuckle down on the green tops of the North, batting should not be of much worry with Collingwood acting as the middle order anchor. A poor showing with the bat last term will no doubt reinstate the desire, and necessity, for heavy runs – and in Cameron Steel, they have someone who looks to have the promise to provide. Fresh off the back of a maiden first-class double century in his breakthrough season, Steel will be looking to tie down that upper middle order position. With this potential comes responsibility however and Collingwood will be looking to Steel to live up to the hype that surrounds him at Durham. The loss of Keaton Jennings at the top of the order will no doubt lay heavy on what looked a weak lineup in 2017, Latham and Markram will need to deliver if Durham want to compete this term.
The bowling department has taken a massive blow – the loss of record wicket-taker Graham Onions and promising young quick Paul Coughlin has left a gaping void to fill. In Nathan Rimmington, the Northerners have a solid fast-medium bowler, someone with a lot of experience of Sheffield Shield cricket; someone who will have a lot of pearls of wisdom to impart on the youngsters coming through the Durham system. He and the ever-reliable Chris Rushworth have the potential to form a destructive opening bowling partnership. A lot will also depend on how much cricket Durham get out of Mark Wood, who no doubt will be in and around the England setup for much of the summer. If Durham can get a decent amount out of the injury-plagued quick he will provide a nice change up for this bowling attack. Wood can provide a nice variety, his pace together with the swing and accuracy of Rushworth and Rimmington looks a daunting task for any batting lineup. Besides those three, Barry McCarthy and James Weighell will be looking to push on from encouraging maiden first-class campaigns.
Perennial white-ball strugglers, there is no doubt that ground needs to be made up to compete in both limited-overs competitions. The captaincy of Tom Latham in the Royal London One Day Cup will be, if anything, interesting to observe. There is no doubt that there is potential there for a side that only as recently as 2014 were 50-over champions. In last years Blast, a sorry performance saw only 3 wins from 14 matches. The aim must surely be to compete for a qualification spot, and in the likes of Usman Arshad, James Weighell and Barry McCarthy the Jets do possess some firepower which could be used to propel them up the standings this time around. However, I fear the financial heavyweights may put pay to any hopes Durham have of competing in this competition.
Predictions: County Championship – I feel a middling campaign is on the cards; there will be plenty of highs and lows as is ever the case with Durham. I, along with the majority of the cricketing community, will be rooting for Durham to rise in the face of the adverse position they have been placed into by the ECB
Royal London One Day Cup: 6th
T20 Blast: 8th.
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All Charlie Jennings County Championship David Bowden Derbyshire Durham Essex Glamorgan Gloucestershire Hampshire Harry Hil Harry Hill Hector Cappelletti Jamie Ramage Kent Lancashire Leicestershire Mark Kidger Matthew Nichols Matt Layton Middlesex Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire RLODC Season Previews Somerset Surrey Sussex T20 VFTO Predicts Warwickshire Worcestershire Yorkshire