By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Last Season: 7th Division 2. W4 L7 D3.
Last five results: Lost v Kent (A), Won v Glamorgan (H), Won v Northants (A),
Lost v Middlesex (A), Lost v Gloucestershire (H).
2018 leading run scorer: Wayne Madsen, 1016 @ 37.6 (2x100, 7x50, HS 144).
2018 top of batting averages: Ben Slater, 676 @ 42.3 (0x100, 6x50, HS 99).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Tony Palladino, 51 @ 19.7 (BBI 6-29, BBM 10-81)
2018 top of bowling averages: Luis Reece, 11 @ 17.9 (BBI 7-20, BBM 7-38)
Derbyshire's problems could be encapsulated in the struggles of Captain Billy Godleman. The first eight games of the season brought him just a solitary fifty. Although he ended strongly, with 2x100 and 2x50 in the last six games, an average of 26.3 is not what you hope for from a batsman who had appeared re-born at Derby. An attack of Ravi Rampaul, Mark Footitt, Duane Olivier and Tony Palladino looked sturdy enough to give any batting line-up a hard time, but Footitt managed just a single game, and his England ambitions now seem to be over, and Ravi Rampaul’s 13 wickets came at more than 50 apiece. Rampaul’s season ended prematurely at Hove on August 19th when he left the field with breathing difficulties and spent several nights in the hospital bed.
Derbyshire have seen important changes both on and off-field over the winter. They have signed New Zealand all-rounder Logan van Beek as their overseas player for the entire 2019 season for all formats. A medium-fast bowler and middle-order batsman, Derbyshire hope that he will strengthen their attack. An international with The Netherlands, he has been out of their side for more than three years now but, instead, has played for New Zealand A and is close to a cap for them. Batsman, Tom Lace has been signed on loan from Middlesex but, as part of the agreement, will not be available for games against Middlesex. And Scotland spinner, Mark Watt, has crossed the Pennines from Lancashire, hoping for the opportunity of regular cricket. On the negative side, Ben Slater has left for Nottinghamshire, Duanne Olivier has taken a Kolpak deal at Yorkshire and stalwarts Gary Wilson (T20 captain), and Hardus Viljoen have both been released, alongside Will David and Callum Brodrick. While the playing staff seem thinner in 2019, the backroom staff is now full of experience. David Houghton comes back to his post as Head of Cricket. Steve Kirby is bowling coach, and Dominic Cork is Head Coach for T20, while John Wright will work as an advisor on recruitment and strategy.
Although 2018 was ultimately disappointing, it was, at least, despite all the injury problems, a small advance on the three wins and eighth place of 2017. However, one feels that 2019 is going to be a challenging year because recruitment has not matched the talent that has left the club. Derbyshire will need Billy Godleman to continue his late-season form from 2018 and for van Beek to get both runs and wickets. More than anything though, they will need Rampaul and Footitt to stay fit and have one, last hurrah if they are to bowl sides out regularly.
Prediction: Derbyshire will struggle to avoid a bottom three finish.
After several seasons of losing their best players, the county seems to be returning to stability. For 2019, Durham must do without Paul Collingwood, who has retired finally. Collingwood had a season to forget, without a single fifty and averaging under 15, but Durham will miss his calm and his authority. In his place they have made the brave, one might almost say, courageous signing of Cameron Bancroft. There is no question that Bancroft has talent, although his common sense and sartorial judgement might be questioned. It will be interesting to see what he makes of the spicy pitches of the Riverside, as an extended run for Gloucestershire in 2016 and 2017 brought minimal success: almost a quarter of his runs over sixteen matches came in a single inning. Bancroft will undoubtedly receive some “chat” from opposition players and fans alike and how he handles it may define Durham’s season. Elsewhere, the squad seems reinforced, with two shrewd signings in Leicestershire’s Ben Raine, a useful all-rounder, who enjoyed a wonderful 2018 season, and Yorkshire’s Alex Lees, exiting the club are Barry McCarthy as he is now, with Ireland’s promotion, an overseas player. Ryan Davis, a fringe player in the Championship, has also left for personal reasons. The county is unlikely to see much of Stokes and Wood – if he stays fit, Wood is likely to be playing for England – so a lot of weight will fall, again, on the shoulders of Chris Rushworth to hold together the attack. More critical still is for the batsmen to make top-order runs after a horrific collective 2018: if Durham is to challenge, they will need at least two batsmen to top 800 runs for the season and several more to go past 600. James Franklin is expected to join the coaching staff, bringing with him a wealth of experience.
Prediction: Durham needs to show that an up and down 2018, including some remarkable wins from unpromising positions, was the first sign that they are turning the corner. More consistency in 2019 and they could be dark horses to go up.
Cook’s return will be most welcomed perhaps by Tom Westley and Nick Browne who will be looking to have big seasons after disappointing large parts in 2018. The pair both tend to improve when batting with Cook with both men benefiting from the former England captain’s guidance and coolness in the middle. Whilst, unlikely a strong start to the season for either Westley or Browne could see an unlikely call-up for the Ashes, and learning from Cook can only set them in good stead.
In terms of winter arrivals the Eagles have secured Peter Siddle for a further two season after the Australian Paceman impressed last season, but there are fears that the club lose the opening bowling to international duty with the Aussies coming to town for the Ashes this Summer, and good start to his county campaign could see him receive another Ashes call-up. Siddle proved to be a popular character around the Cloud FM County Ground with the 34-year-old often seen helping the Essex bowling youngsters develop their game, and his experience will prove key for Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and Aaron Beard’s development long term, of course Porter will be hoping to line-up against Siddle in the Ashes come June.
Andre Nel, former Essex and South African strike bowler has linked up with the Eagles once again to become assistant and bowling coach replacing the departed Dimitri Mascarenhas, who struggled to make an impact at Essex in his year with the club. Nel’s international experience could prove important for the club’s young prospects with Jack Plom in particularly highly thought of within the club.
Prediction: Another season of challenging at the top awaits for the Eagles, they shouldn’t lose too many key men for the Ashes, and with the returning Alastair Cook they should be able to get the runs to set up their talented bowling attack.
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.
You can follow Charlie on Twitter @AVCJX
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