MARK Stoneman’s credentials as the successor to Paul Collingwood as Durham captain will be further tested in the Royal London Cup, starting at Taunton tomorrow.
The one-day skipper has endured a disappointing Twenty20 campaign, averaging 10.2 before dropping himself down to No 8 in Thursday’s defeat at Old Trafford.
The 50-over format will suit him better, although when he was made captain last season following the loss of Dale Benkenstein he did not perform as well in the YB 40 as the previous year, when he made three centuries.
Since turning 38 in May, Collingwood has struggled to maintain the form which prompted him to say he might reconsider his decision to retire at the end of the season.
Among the other candidates to succeed him, it is probably too soon for Keaton Jennings or Scott Borthwick, while Michael Richardson is a relative newcomer to first team cricket.
Graham Onions is another possibility, although concerns about his long-term fitness will not be allayed until he shows signs of a return to form.
He can only do that by bowling regularly, and having left him out of the second team’s thrashings by Yorkshire this week Durham will surely have to select him at Taunton.
When Durham won their first silverware, the Friends Provident Trophy, in 2007 it was a 50-over event. It survived two more years before making way for more 40-over and T20 cricket.
The feeling was that one-day internationals would follow suit, but because the 50-over duration has been retained it was felt necessary for the domestic game to revert to the same format.
There are two groups of nine with each county playing four games at home and four away in a 19-day period dedicated purely to this event.
Durham’s schedule is horrendous, reducing their chances of finishing in the top four to reach the quarter-finals.
After Taunton they are at Canterbury two days later, then they play Warwickshire at South Northumberland next Thursday.
The following Tuesday they are at Hove, then go to Cardiff before finishing with home games against Middlesex, Nottinghamshire and Surrey.
If they are to get off to a winning start they will need to improve greatly on their recent one-day record at Taunton.
They performed poorly in the CB 40 semi-final in 2011 and in the same event the following year they were all out for 147 and Somerset knocked off the runs in 20.2 overs with Craig Kieswetter making 103.
He is currently out with facial injuries suffered when a ball went through his helmet grille, but with the likes of Peter Trego and the fast-bowling Overton twins capable of scoring quick runs down the order, Somerset have plenty of batting depth.
Durham will give Calum MacLeod the chance to prove he is more than just a T20 batsman and certainly look better equipped for this format than the hit and giggle.
Durham seconds followed their 185-run one-day defeat by Yorkshire at Marske by losing to the same opposition by an innings and 62 runs in a Second X1 Championship match at Harrogate.
Wicketkeeper Dan Hodgson shook off his disappointing form for Darlington in the NYSD League by scoring 113 in Yorkshire’s 416. Josh Shaw, an 18-year-old seamer, had match figures of ten for 71 as Durham were dismissed for 224 and 130.