Durham once more an emotional rollercoaster – Around The Wicket

LAST STAND: Gareth Breese leaves Durham at the end of the season

LAST STAND: Gareth Breese leaves Durham at the end of the season

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SUCH were the extraordinary events of Durham’s week, it seems difficult to know where to start or quite how to wade through the layers of conflicting emotions.

Having eventually dispatched an inexperienced and fairly poor Surrey side in the Royal London One-Day Cup, we were forced to endure Wednesday’s agonising wait through a thrilling game at Trent Bridge and a faintly ludicrous floodlight failure and furious run rate calculations at The Oval before qualification was confirmed.

That quarter final marks the start of the Gareth Breese farewell tour, who after 11 years of service is departing the club.

Breese has been an invaluable member of the squad, especially in limited overs cricket with dependably tight spin and thrilling late order hitting.

His departure means there’ll be a huge pressure on Scott Borthwick and the gang of young spinners waiting in the wings to replace that contribution.

It could yet be the end of the illustrious one day career of Paul Collingwood, whose relatively indifferent batting in the Championship has been completely at odds with his brilliance over 50 overs.

To send them both off with a Lords final would be a fitting end to this possibly seismic double exit from the club.

Yet somehow all this seems rather small beer in comparison with the events at Old Trafford, which were equal parts brilliance and farce.

The way in which Durham’s season has unfolded, it seemed only fitting that they could conspire to take part in arguably the most thrilling final day’s play in the Championship, yet still end up on the losing side.

Only they could rightly pick a second spinner on a pitch which was turning square, only for him and half the playing side to spend much of the game vomiting onto the outfield, leaving Ben Stokes having to blow many a mind across the country by bowling gentle off-spin.

And seemingly only they could conspire to fail to take that final wicket when all momentum seemed to be with them.

To separate the visceral drama from the cold hard facts of the game seems hard but the stark fact at the end of it is that Durham are staring relegation in the face.

A small consolation came from the excellent batting performances from debutant Calum MacLeod and John Hastings in the first innings.

MacLeod’s innings in particular will have given some hope, as he dispelled some of the myths about him being purely a limited overs cricketer.

Hastings, Chris Rushworth and Stokes may well have bowled excellent spells in the second innings but still they failed to make up for the inadequacies of the batting.

And with Stokes called up to the England one day squad and Graham Onions out for the remainder of the season, Hastings and Rushworth will be under even greater pressure to repeat this feat.

Illness or not, there will be a huge emphasis on Durham’s top order to deliver collectively, rather than individually in the forthcoming games.

All is not lost at this stage but there will be even more pressure on the matches against Division One whipping boys Northamptonshire and fellow strugglers Middlesex.

With a month to go, this could yet be considered a successful season for Durham if they negotiate their way out of trouble and manage to progress further in the one day cup.

But for this to happen, something of last season’s consistency needs to return.

Somewhere in there remains a team who can beat anyone on their day and perhaps one win will bring two but time is slowly but surely running out.

JAMES TIERNAN

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