DURHAM will be banking on new one-day skipper Mark Stoneman and Phil Mustard to get them off to a cracking start in the NatWest T20 Blast this evening, writes TIM WELLOCK.
Now wishing to be known as the Jets in this competition, Durham look a little short of middle order firepower and need at least one of their openers to come off.
They are considering sending Scotsman Calum MacLeod in at No 3 against Worcestershire, whose visit for the 5.30pm start is about as easy a start as Durham could have.
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Although Moeen Ali has become an England T20 player and Pakistani Saeed Ajmal is a high quality off-spinner, the Royals also appear to lack big guns and do not have a good record in this event.
Financially it is seen as vital for the future of the county game that the Twenty20 competition continues to grow – hence the marketing under a new title and the move towards playing as many matches as possible on a Friday evening.
The earlier start than usual is because the matches are being spread over a longer period instead of being concentrated into a few weeks in midsummer and most counties new have floodlights, permitting a 7pm start.
But while they have long been planned, the installation of lights remains on the back burner at Chester-le- Street and fading light could be a factor if it is a cloudy evening.
The counties have been split into two groups instead of three and there are 14 games instead of ten, which is a reversion to the situation three years ago, which was deemed to be overkill.
But many counties want as much T20 action to balance the books and Durham will be praying that the lack of batsmen who can regularly clear the ropes will not keep the fans away.
They have even produced a video in which a classified vessel somewhere out to sea is the base for a sporting mission of high importance.
The engines roar and the pilot gives a thumbs-up before the vessel soars through blue skies and white clouds at over 2020 miles per hour, creating a vapour trail and a stream of red smoke, which leaves Mustard, Mark Wood and Michael Richardson gawping in astonishment.
The video is available to view on the club’s official websitedurhamccc.co.uk where tickets are also available.
Or they can be purchased in advance by calling the box office on 0844 4994466.