DURHAM Cricket Academy have announced that they will be resigning from the North East Premier League competition from the end of this season.

The NEPL – which has provided Durham’s best young players with a chance to play against the finest players in the region - for nearly 20 years and helped the development of England internationals such as Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, Mark Wood, Graham Onions and Liam Plunkett.

The club says the decision was made "following the changes to the cricketing landscape", explaining that "many of Durham’s best under 13s are performing for club second elevens and 15, 16 and 17-year-old cricketers are playing regularly for their club’s first teams".

Next season’s Academy recruits are already playing responsible roles for their clubs, therefore the decision was made to let the clubs continue to develop their young players and the Durham Academy would become smaller with a greater emphasis being put on coaching and helping players deliver.

A statement read: "Durham County Cricket Club remains committed to developing local youngsters and giving them an opportunity to forge a career on the national stage. There will be more support available for a wider group of players in the county age group programme, ranging from u11 to u19."

DCCC academy director John Windows added: “With clubs now finding it harder to turn out sides and there not being the volume of players to support a playing side in the league for a full season, I feel this is the right time to move the emphasis of the academy into a training environment supplemented by mid-week playing opportunities and ensure the players perform for their home clubs with distinction on the weekend.

“Playing competitive league cricket remains a vital plank in their development but they will play for their home clubs rather than the academy.”

Durham head coach Jon Lewis said: “I think it’s a positive and bold decision from John and one that I fully support.

“John Windows is exceptional at his role and has proven that over a number of years, we’ve discussed at the length the best way to go forward and he believes and I agree this is the best way of producing new players.”

Durham chairman Sir Ian Botham OBE added: “The club remains committed to developing junior cricketers and providing local lads with opportunities.

“The Academy is still a very important part of our club and the exceptional work that John and the team have done over the years will continue to happen.”

Durham begin a County Championship game on Wednesday against Northamptonshire at the Emirates Riverside (11am).