Mitch Claydon heads into the new county season with Durham having experienced the most productive winter of his eight-year professional career.

The Australian-born fast bowler, who joined from Yorkshire in 2007, spent two months playing state cricket as overseas player for Canterbury Wizards in New Zealand either side of Christmas.

He played six one-day and ten Twenty20 matches, mixing it with some of the best players in the world, the likes of Daniel Vettori and Muttiah Muralitharan.

Loading article content

But it was not just on the park where Claydon, now 29 years old and set for his sixth summer in the North East, excelled.

He also believes that some advice from the Canterbury coaching staff has helped him to get into the best shape he has ever been in.

Claydon, who took nine 20-over wickets, explained: "I'd signed for Twenty20 as the overseas player. Yasir Arafat was the other. I also played some one-day games for them to get a bit of cricket behind me because I'd had a bit of time off resting my ankle.

"I've had an ankle injury but played with it for the last two years. I had a couple of months off to strengthen it, and I haven't had a problem since.

"We made the final having just lost one game up until then. We then lost the final to Auckland, which was a bit of a shame because only one team in New Zealand goes through to the Champions League.

"I'd gone over the year before and broke my finger in the first game that I played, so to go back and do well was quite nice.

"I'm probably now in the best shape I've ever been in as a professional cricketer.

"I've changed a few things lifestyle wise which have helped me. I'm not getting any younger, I'm 29, so I've got to look after myself to give me the best possible chance of playing games and being successful.

"I can't wait to get back to England and get back in the whites and hopefully play that first game.

"I suppose I'd never really known what to eat and what not to eat. I sat down with a coach in New Zealand and went through it. I wrote down what I was eating in a week, and he told me what I can and can't have. It just opened my eyes massively."

Currently in the Dubai with his Durham team-mates on their pre-season tour, Claydon has had a lot of personal success in Twenty20 cricket in recent times.

But he is desperate to transfer that kind of form into the longest form of county cricket, the LV= County Championship.

He only played eight of 16 matches last season, taking a credible 29 wickets including two hauls of five wickets or more.

And he added: "I love my four-day cricket, and my goal this season is to play as many games as I can.

"The last couple of years, I've been left out of the first few games. I had to wait for my time. This year I've gone away and done everything I can to start the season strongly."

Durham lost a thrilling 40-match against Sussex in Dubai yesterday.

After rain halted proceedings in the desert, the Hove side chased down 279 with a ball to spare. The two counties play each other in a two-day clash today.

Claydon took 4-56 from 7.5 overs.