THERE will be an inevitable air of anti-climax when Durham complete their NatWest T20 Blast programme at home to holders Northamptonshire this evening.
After meeting in the quarterfinals last season neither can progress this year and they have shared in the general disappointment following the ECB’s attempts to breathe new life into the competition.
With one of the better crowds at Chester-le-Street turning up for the Sunday afternoon fixture against an unattractive Derbyshire side, the experiment of playing the majority of games on a Friday evening has not been a success.
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Durham will look again at the possibility of installing floodlights as concerns remain that a 5.30pm start is too early.
Hopes of a quarter-final spot vanished at Grace Road last Friday, when excellent work in the field narrowly failed to atone for feeble batting.
After being put in on a muggy evening, Durham limped to 117-9 and lost by three wickets to a modest Leicestershire side with one ball left.
Victory looked possible when Graham Onions, in his first T20 appearance of the season, had a spell of 3-4 in 12 balls.
But in the absence of John Hastings with a tight hamstring, Durham had included Mark Wood and when he conceded 15 in the 19th over Leicestershire needed only six to win. They took four singles before Matthew Boyce pulled Chris Rushworth for four to remain unbeaten on 46 off 42 balls, easily the best individual score of the night.
It has been a disappointing series for one-day skipper Mark Stoneman, who had totalled 128 in ten innings before dropping himself down to No.5 at Leicester. It made no difference as Scott Borthwick, promoted to open, was out second ball and Stoneman made nine.
He will remain in charge for the 50-over competition, the Royal London Cup, in which Durham start with a trip to Taunton on Sunday, followed by Canterbury two days’ later.
Then next Thursday they entertain Warwickshire in the game which they have switched to South Northumberland to help with the Gosforth club’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Play in these matches starts at 10.30am.
Preparations were not helped by an eight-wicket defeat in a 50-over match at home to Sri Lanka A on Sunday.
A hat-trick by Lahiru Gamage plunged Durham to 46-5 and it needed half-centuries by Keaton Jennings and Gareth Breese to lift the total to 196.
They were all out with 6.4 overs left and the visitors eased home in 41.3 overs.
Gamage should have had four wickets in four balls, but Niroshan Dickwella dropped a regulation chance offered by fellow wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter.
Deputising for Phil Mustard, Poynter made 36 on his firstteam debut before flying to Dublin the next day to face the same opponents three times in an Ireland team captained by his elder brother Andrew.
Stoneman’s hopes of finding some one-day form were dashed when he was caught behind in the fourth over off Gamage, but the bowler did not look particularly threatening until he took his hat-trick.
Michael Richardson edged a drive behind then Ryan Pringle and Gordon Muchall were both trapped in front.
Jennings staked his claim to replace the injured Calum MacLeod by top-scoring with 65.