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Familiar feeling as Twenty20 comes back around – Around The Wicket
4:01pm Thursday 12th June 2014 in Sport
IN PREVIOUS seasons, the arrival of the summer block of T20 was greeted more with hope than expectation by Durham fans.
They appreciated the novelty, the occasionally warm summer night and the inclusive nature of the game but that was as far as it went, as with a few years of exception, Durham were generally awful at it.
The structure of the tournament may now be different but in a week free from the County Championship there was a familiar sinking feeling as they were first quite comfortably beaten by Warwickshire and then managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with a disastrous end to the Worcestershire game.
One of the key issues this season has been the fairly abject form of both openers.
Despite some huge and not so huge scores in the Championship, Mark Stoneman has looked uncertain and hurried, while Phil Mustard’s form continues to be of concern in all forms of the game.
Quite where Durham would be without Calum MacLeod hardly bares thinking about.
As one of the few players in the country to thus far exceed 200 runs, his ingenuity and ability to rotate the strike has kept Durham afloat.
Perhaps it is worth giving him an opportunity to open the innings and more effectively utilise the powerplays, something which Durham feel as if they’re seeing out rather than exploiting.
With his captaining of the second XI and with him more than likely to be a part of the 50 over squad later in the summer, you would have thought it was only a matter of time until he is given a well deserved full time contract.
The other new boy, John Hastings gave another demonstration of his power hitting at the end of the Warwickshire game to give the score a sheen of respectability but his bowling has been expensive as he adjusts to the conditions.
The disrupted 13 over game against Worcestershire saw Durham do incredibly well with the ball up until the final two overs.
First Hastings and then Chris Rushworth bowled poorly but the reaction to the latter on Twitter was baffling to say the least.
Rushworth may well have bowled poorly but having produced an excellent final over display against Nottinghamshire the previous week, the personalised criticism from a group of cowardly keyboard warriors was an unedifying combination of sporadic armchair viewers, social media and short memories.
If Rushworth’s loss of nerve with the ball was uncharacteristic, Durham seem to have unearthed a real limited overs gem in Usman Arshad.
His economical spell of wide yorkers, even if there was some suspicion of back foot no balls with some of them, showed a player who looked every part the modern T20 bowler.
The arrival of Hastings and the contentious failure of England to pick Ben Stokes, mean that his path to the Championship team may well be blocked for the foreseeable future but he now looks indispensable to the limited over side.
Stokes, apparently short on overs, despite having played as much cricket as Stuart Broad and Matt Prior this summer, is a huge bonus to have available for the coming months.
Indeed he may end up being an inadvertent victim of Graeme Swann’s retirement, with Moeen Ali looking likely to bat at six.
This means that a place in the side could come down to a straight fight between him and former Durham man Liam Plunkett who has pleasingly put his on and off field issues behind him.
You wouldn’t bet against a fired up Stokes to do that but his route back to the Test side may not be a straight forward as first assumed.