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Collingwood: Title win would top off a difficult season
PAUL COLLINGWOOD admits winning a third LV County Championship would be a great way to end a difficult season for Durham but admits their position going into the last three games has come as a surprise to the dressing room.
Durham edged closer to their third first-class title in six years with a comprehensive win over Sussex last week, which left the Chester-le-Street side 14.5 points clear of Yorkshire with three games left to play.
The first of those games sees Durham travel to struggling Derbyshire tomorrow with the visit of Nottinghamshire and a trip to Hove to play Sussex rounding off the season.
But their position going into the final stretch hasn't come easily with Durham having to deal with adverse times both on and off the crease over the last six months.
"It's been one of those seasons where we keep turning up at every game and think 'surely something else can't happen' and something always does," said Collingwood, who was visiting Yarm Cricket Club to coach 40 youngsters as part of his ambassadorial role with Yorkshire Bank.
"Whether it's been an injury to a key bowler, we've lost Ben Stokes or Graeme Onions to England, Dale Benkenstein gets an injury or even a fire alarm going off at 2am and you don't get any sleep when you have to go and knock the runs off the next day at Nottinghamshire.
"All the way through things have happened. Losing Geoff Cook half way through the season to a heart attack knocked us and for him to recover and be around now puts a smile on everybody's face.
"It would be great it we could go on and finish the job off after all the adversity the club has been through."
Durham's position at the top of the table is a remarkable achievement for a side that flirted with relegation last season and was largely written off to challenge for honours this summer.
Although Collingwood insists he didn't take any notice of Durham critics at the beginning of the season, the 37-year-old all-rounder has revealed their position at the championship summit has surprised the squad.
He said: "I didn't read too much into it at the start of the season. Everyone at the club thought we'd stay up, but whether we thought we were going to be pushing for the title, I think we would be lying if we said that, but full credit goes to the youngsters who have come into the side and stepped into the shoes of the players that left like Michael Di Venuto.
"We've had some great victories recently and I think the main thing is when you get closer to a prize more emotion comes into a game and that can be dangerous.
"But I sense an excitement rather than a real nervousness around the team at the moment. It's great to have that kind of attitude when we are in this position.
"It's pretty much take every session as it comes and keep doing what we have been. There's no reason to change anything. We've got to adapt to conditions with two away out of the three and that will be important but the ball is in our court and hopefully we can go out there and perform."
While Durham will be focused on stretching their lead at the top of the table, tomorrow's opponents Derbyshire will be looking to move away from the relegation places.
Collingwood admits his side will have to be wary when they travel to the East Midlands especially given the fact Durham were in a similar position twelve months ago.
He said: "We were in that situation and we know how hard we were fighting. It's a never give up attitude when you're in that position.
"We've got to be wary of that but also if we can get on top of them early hopefully we can stay on top.
"We know it will be a difficult place to go, we're not sure what the wicket is going to play like, but we've just got to adapt as much as possible."
The former England captain visited Yarm CC to coach the club's youth section, something he believes is crucial to the future of the game.
"It's important that you go out there and get the participation levels up and get the enthusiasm going with the kids and that's why it's great that Yorkshire Bank are associated with bringing the kids through," he said.
"It's great to come along to local cricket clubs and get in amongst the nitty gritty of coaching at a young level."
Paul Collingwood is an ambassador for Yorkshire Bank, who are giving away 150 cricket bats over the summer via their Giving Bat to You campaign. Visit www.facebook.com/YorkshireBankCricket.
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