Chester has Durham in the groove

LEEDS, ENG. during the Nat West T20 Blast match between Yorkshire Vikings vs Durham Jets at the Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Wednesday 2nd July 2014. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | Shutter Press) (7815265)

LEEDS, ENG. during the Nat West T20 Blast match between Yorkshire Vikings vs Durham Jets at the Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Wednesday 2nd July 2014. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | Shutter Press) (7815263)

LEEDS, ENG. during the Nat West T20 Blast match between Yorkshire Vikings vs Durham Jets at the Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Wednesday 2nd July 2014. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | Shutter Press) (7815261)

First published in Sport

CHESTER The Lion can really groove.

Seriously, the newly appointed person inside the Chester suit has really brought the excitement back to an actual fully grown human adult dressing up as a lion while a spectacularly inconsistent Durham T20 side flail about with middling results on the field.

Quite why Chester caught so much of my attention in the comprehensive demolition of an awful Derbyshire side last week so initially due to the fairly one sided nature of proceedings but his newly found swagger in front of hordes of excitable primary school children spoke of the wider battles the club face financially and in attracting a new fanbase.

Having targeted the evening at a family audience, the ground was resplendent with fairground attractions, free t-shirts thrown into the crowd and a general attempt to make a sport which, even in its shortest format, is still an ask to keep younger children engaged for the entire match.

While Chester built a minor fanclub and Durham were victorious, a factor which can never be neglected in building those eager to return, there remain barriers to capturing that next generation of fans.

The lack of cricket on terrestrial TV is of course out of the club’s hands, as are the poor transport links to the ground but initiatives such as the cheap tickets for children are not and surely it is in the club’s interests to have rafts of excited children inside a part full ground, rather than price out tomorrow’s fans.

The regular signing sessions can’t hurt either and the Durham players should be commended for their time with the younger supporters.

Yet despite the sudden and partly improbable turn around in Durham’s T20 fortunes, there remain deep doubts that they’re actually any good at this hit and giggle gig.

Firstly, Derbyshire looked a poor side to say the least, with it is no mean feat to make an inconsistent Durham side look quite so good.

John Hastings, in both this fixture and the Yorkshire game, looks to be finally flourishing English conditions despite a continued issue with front foot no balls.

Ben Stokes was back to his imperious best and this could well be the last Durham see of him this season unless England spend the summer bouncing him up and down the motorway as they’ve done to Graham Onions over the years.

What could be the most pleasing aspect for Durham from both games is the promising signs from Phil Mustard with the bat.

Despite a modest Derbyshire attack, it may well be that their fairly abject bowling was just what was required to get him back into form in all formats.

In previous seasons the 40 over competition had helped him revitalise his Championship form and perhaps the knocks here and against Yorkshire can have the same effect.

Yet the victory against Yorkshire owed as much to their ridiculous mental collapse as it did to a fine Durham performance.

Having been saved by a gritty knock by Gareth Breese after poor displays by everyone else bar Mustard, the panic which shot through the Yorkshire ranks after they didn’t even come close to chasing a well below par score was spectacular to say the least.

Good bowling aside, it doesn’t leave us any the wiser as to just how good Durham actually are at T20 right now.

The quarter finals are far from an impossibility but you suspect they need significantly greater consistency to even remotely trouble a top southern group side.

But if this unpredictable silliness can keep Chester grooving, we may yet cling onto some hope.

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