THE summer might not have gone as planned for Durham, but the team’s struggles in the bottom half of the County Championship table have clearly not affected their captain’s enthusiasm for playing cricket.
Having previously outlined his strong intention to retire from competitive cricket at the end of the season, Paul Collingwood has performed a U-turn and signed a one-year contract extension that commits him to Emirates Durham ICG until the end of the 2015 campaign.
The 38-year-old’s decision provides a timely boost ahead of both the end of the County Championship season, which will see Durham attempt to extricate themselves from the relegation positions, and Thursday’s Royal London Cup quarter-final with Yorkshire at Headingley.
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“I had presumed this was going to be my last season, but I’m really enjoying my cricket and feel as though I’m still contributing to the team,” said Collingwood, who stepped down from international cricket in 2011.
“You’re a long time retired and I’ve still got ambitions to take this team forward. It really is a special group of guys to be involved with and I don’t want to give that up too early. We’ve got a lot to play for in the back end of the season with the quarter-finals and trying to avoid relegation, which would be a huge achievement.
“There is a bigger picture as well, which is about having another year to try and create a culture that will hopefully be around for another five to ten years. I’m certain that the backbone of this side, with the youngsters coming through, will be strong for years to come.”
Collingwood’s decision to postpone his retirement reflects both the positive effect of last winter’s coaching with England and Scotland, and some justified satisfaction at his form this season, particularly in the limited-overs form of the game.
The all-rounder has scored more than 600 first-class runs this season and finished as Durham’s leading wicket taker in the NatWest T20 Blast. However, it is his form in the Royal London Cup that has been most impressive as he has averaged 68 with the bat and 21 with the ball as Durham have progressed to the last eight.
“Everyone at the club is delighted that Paul will be continuing his career,” said Durham head coach Jon Lewis. “His contribution as a player, leader and character in the dressing room is difficult to measure. It is a big life for everyone knowing that he will be with us next year.”
Durham officials are close to agreeing the terms of a new deal with Scott Borthwick, and are also hoping a change in the rules will enable them to re-sign John Hastings for the 2015 season.
As things stand, Hastings, who tops Durham’s Championship bowling and T20 batting averages, would only be eligible to return as an overseas player if he was to play a Test or 15 limited-overs games for Australia this winter.
However, the ECB is considering a change to the regulations which would make it much easier for a county to re-sign a player who had represented them in the previous season.