DURHAM will have Ben Stokes available for their second Royal London Cup tie against Kent at Canterbury today, plus the visit of Warwickshire to South Northumberland on Thursday.
After being left out of the England team for the third Test, he is likely to replace Keaton Jennings unless Paul Collingwood is troubled by a back problem he developed in Sunday’s defeat at Taunton.
Jennings is an asset in the field, but although he made a sprightly 45 against Somerset the early signs from this competition are that more powerful striking is required in the middle order.
Also, the variations he has developed in his medium pace bowling for Twenty20 purposes did not transfer well to the 50-over format.
Having started with their toughest fixture, Durham now move on to what should be the easiest against a Kent side who are very light on bowling.
Their attack is led by Mitch Claydon and they will also include another ex-Durham man in Ben Harmison. England oneday spinner James Tredwell is back from his loan to Sussex.
Veteran all-rounder Darren Stevens remains a formidable opponent with bat and ball, but the only other experienced batsmen are Rob Key and Brendan Nash, who was born in Australia but played Test cricket for the West Indies.
This is much the tougher of the two groups and Durham’s ridiculous schedule will not make it any easier to finish in the top four.
It should not have been beyond the wit of the schedulers to send them to Cardiff rather than Canterbury from Taunton, then from Sussex to Kent next week.
Whether Stokes is available for the match at Hove next Tuesday remains to be seen with the fourth Test due to start two days later.