Durham target key overseas signing

The Northern Echo: NO EASING UP: Jon Lewis insists Paul Collingwood is aiming to play for Durham throughout the summer, his final season as a player NO EASING UP: Jon Lewis insists Paul Collingwood is aiming to play for Durham throughout the summer, his final season as a player

DURHAM are confident of signing an overseas player for the full season, although he would be unlikely to accompany them to Abu Dhabi for the MCC v Champions match starting on March 23.

Coach Jon Lewis revealed that Western Australia's Mitchell Marsh had been a target, but he has not played enough international cricket to meet the regulations.

"Signing someone is a bit like wading through treacle and I don't think the rules help," said Lewis. "It would be nice to give an opportunity to an up-and-coming player, but they have to have played two Tests in the last year or 15 one-day internationals or T20s.

"We also looked at New Zealand's Corey Anderson, but he's going to the IPL and we want someone for the full season. It would be nice to have Jacques Kallis, but I don't think that's going to happen.

"To fill Ben Stokes's role would be really difficult, so we are primarily looking for a bowler who is a strong lower order batsman.

"Everyone at the club wants it to happen and we are making progress, so hope it will be sorted in the next couple of weeks."

Durham will take 16 players to Abu Dhabi but have opted out of the Twenty20 tournament they were expected to take part in.

"We will arrive two days before the MCC match and want to use that time to prepare properly for a four-day game," said Lewis.

The squad will not include Scotsman Calum MacLeod, who has been handed a contract for the month of April after greatly impressing Paul Collingwood during the World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand, when he made two consecutive centuries.

MacLeod, 25, has played first-class cricket for Warwickshire but was released in 2010, a year after his bowling action was reported as suspect during Scotland's Intercontinental Cup match against Canada.

He has remodelled his action and is still an occasional bowler, but it his batting which interests Collingwood following his stint as a Scotland coach.

Lewis said: "Calum has made an impression as a top-order one-day batsman, but he has a solid technique and there's no reason why he shouldn't play four-day cricket.

"We will have a look at him in some second team games before he goes back to Scotland to prepare for the May 9 match against England in Aberdeen."

The squad for Abu Dhabi will include Gordon Muchall and Gareth Breese, who are on one-day contracts but will be considered for four-day cricket as numbers are currently light.

Young off-spinners Ryan Pringle and Ryan Buckley will also travel, along with seam bowling all-rounder Paul Coughlin, from Sunderland, whose progress has impressed Lewis over the winter.

Usman Arshad, who arrived back yesterday from a winter in South Africa, will make the trip and it is expected that Mark Wood will be fit to play after returning early from the England Lions tour to Sri Lanka with a side injury.

Mark Stoneman is the likely captain in the absence of Collingwood because of his England coaching duties, but Lewis is confident the skipper will be available for the rest of the season.

"The ECB asked if they could have him for the West Indies and Bangladesh and we were delighted to let him have the opportunity, which could lead to something in the future," said Lewis.

"But he'll be with us this summer. I've spoken to him a lot about it and he's adamant he wants to play until September."

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