Durham ponder overseas options

DURHAM will take a close interest in today's Indian Premier League auction with a view to putting in a bid of their own for an overseas man.

Finances prevented them from signing an overseas player last season, but they now accept they might need one for the coming campaign.

After releasing four bowlers they have also seen Ben Stokes launch what is expected to be a successful England career and coach Jon Lewis said: "We have to be aware of the hole he leaves in all three formats.

"Our resources are looking a bit thin, so we will see who is available after the IPL auction. We wouldn't spend money for the sake of it, but if we could find someone who fits our budget we will consider it."

Lewis also revealed that there had been an inquiry from India about Stokes' availability for the IPL, but he decided to stick with a decision he made months ago not to get involved.

"Ben is keen to play for us as much as possible, but I'd be surprised if we have him for more than three early championship games," said Lewis. "He's been in a lot with us this week and really has the bit between his teeth.

"If England take him to the Twenty20 World Cup and do well he would be away until early April then they would probably want him to take a break, so he might miss our first game at Northampton. We'd hope to have him for the next two or three after that."

There was reassuring news of Mark Wood, who was sent home from the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka at the weekend with a side injury.

"It's the same side he strained last August, but it's nothing like as serious," said Lewis. "I think the ECB have been cautious because they have realised that he could be an important player. They felt they might have got him fit for the last two Tests but didn't want to take any risks. He'll be back in training next week."

Durham released Steve Harmison, Callum Thorp, Mitch Claydon and Ruel Brathwaite at the end of last season, seriously depleting their stock of seamers.

The failure of the trio of tall men in Australia this winter means Graham Onions is still very much in the selectors' thinking, as underlined by his Lions call-up as Wood's replacement.

Durham's other remaining seamers are Chris Rushworth, Jamie Harrison and all-rounder Usman Arshad, leaving little margin for injuries. It is hoped Sunderland all-rounder Paul Coughlin, who remains on a development contract, will push on this year after being unable to bowl last season because of a back problem.

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