DURHAM face the welcome task of fitting Ben Stokes into their Twenty20 batting line-up for this evening’s visit of Lancashire.
England are keen to bat him at three in this form of the game, but Durham will not be inclined to shift Calum MacLeod from that slot following his brilliant unbeaten 80 on his debut against Worcestershire.
The only higher T20 scores for Durham have been Phil Mustard’s 91 at home to Yorkshire last year and Herschelle Gibbs’ 83 against Derbyshire two years ago.
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Stokes was the leading six-hitter in the competition last season, when he always batted at five. But that proved to be too low in the quarter-final defeat at Northampton, when his unbeaten 51 still left Durham well adrift.
Although the enthusiastic Scott Borthwick will want to defy his finger injuries and play, the fact that it is impossible to hide anyone in the field in T20 cricket will prompt Durham to replace him with Stokes at No 4 in the order.
No play was possible on the final day of Durham’s match at Trent Bridge, leaving them still without a win after six games in the LV County Championship. They remain third from the bottom, two points ahead of Lancashire.
It was a frustrating day for Durham, who would still have had 27 overs to score the 65 runs to collect two more points for the maximum of five. After scoring 335 for four in reply to 377 all out, they finished the game with 11 points and Nottinghamshire had ten.
The Durham players were keeping a keen eye on last night’s last four eliminator in the Indian Premier League, knowing that Australian John Hastings would be able to join them by the weekend if Chennai Superkings lost to Mumbai.
With the in-form duo of Paul Collingwood and Gordon Muchall to follow it looks a powerful line-up for what has been dubbed Red Hot Thursday by the club. As both teams play in red fans are being urged to follow suit.
The theme continues with hot seat prizes – from match tickets to meals.
One lucky spectator will also win two return flights to Dubai and three nights in a hotel courtesy of Emirates, who sponsor both clubs.
With the all-round talents of Stokes, Collingwood and Gareth Breese in the top seven, Durham don’t need to gamble on the fitness of any of their injured bowlers. Chris Rushworth is certain to play and with Ryan Pringle’s big hitting likely to earn him the nod he and Usman Arshad can share the remaining overs.
Mark Wood is fit enough to bowl four overs if required, but after suffering stiffness in his side there is no need to rush him back in the middle of such a hectic schedule.
After travelling back from Nottingham last night, Durham have to return to Trent Bridge for another T20 match tomorrow evening then start a four-day game at home to Middlesex on Sunday.
Speculation that Andrew Flintoff might play for Lancashire this evening looks wide of the mark, although they are obviously considering granting him a comeback at some stage in the competition.
While Durham won their only game so far, Lancashire have won one and lost one and generally have the upper hand in T20 clashes between the counties. They won both meetings last year, when they included Simon Katich. This time they have signed left-arm Pakistani paceman Junaid Khan as their overseas man.
Gates open at 3:30 and the match gets underway at 5:30. Tickets booked in advance online or at the box office are £1 for children and adult tickets are available at £20 for two. Standard rate tickets can be bought on the gate.