PAUL COLLINGWOOD is confident Durham will be in safe hands when he retires, and in pace bowler Chris Rushworth, the North-East county boast another local lad determined to ensure the good times return to Emirates Riverside.

Collingwood will make his penultimate professional outing in the four-day County Championship game that starts at Leicestershire tomorrow, with his final appearance set to come in next week’s home game with Middlesex.

His career has been characterised by a ferocious work ethic and a fierce sense of local pride, traits that are shared by his 32-yearold team-mate Rushworth.

Released in 2006 by Durham, Rushworth bounced around the North-East leagues before returning to Chester-le-Street in 2010, and says he has “not looked back” since being handed his second chance at a professional career.

The seamer has excelled in the last few years, playing an instrumental role in Durham’s County Championship triumph in 2013 and recording even better figures in the 2015 season as he took 83 wickets on the way to winning the PCA Player of the Year Award.

Whereas other players were lured away by the prospect of a higher standard of cricket following Durham’s relegation to Division Two, Rushworth’s loyalty to his home county was never in question.

It was fitting that he surpassed the 400-wicket mark with a brilliant spell of 8-51 to turn last week’s clash with Sussex in the favour of his team at Emirates Riverside.

“It’s huge,” he said after achieving the feat. “Landmarks are always very special. I always like doing the landmarks at the Riverside. It always has that extra special feeling with family and friends here and in front of the home crowd as well.

“Every time I pass a milestone it’s always something I never thought I was ever going to achieve. To reach 400 now is what dreams are made of.”

Rushworth’s loyalty has not gone unnoticed by the county after being handed a testimonial year for the 2019 campaign. Following the exodus of experienced players, Rushworth’s commitment to his local team has been more important than ever, although he insists he is the one that owes a debt of gratitude.

“I’m very proud,” he said. “It’s a huge honour and I’m really appreciative. The support I get from the crowd here is amazing. It’s a great moment for me and my family, and one I can’t thank people here enough for.

“It’s down to everyone involved at Durham for getting me back and giving me a second chance. To pass those milestones and be awarded a testimonial year is something I never thought would happen.”

Durham’s potent pace attack, including Graham Onions and Steve Harmison, during the noughties squeezed Rushworth out of the pecking order in his first spell. After being handed a second chance, he has grasped the opportunity, which he feels is a lesson that could give hope to all young cricketers.

At the age of 32, the veteran seamer has not ruled out surpassing Onions as Durham’s all-time leading wicket taker with the record standing at 527 first-class scalps.

“My story is definitely a message that can be passed on,” he said. “If you have a dream go for it. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked back. If you believe and work hard enough good things can happen.

“Fingers crossed, I’ve got a few good years left. I’ve got plenty left in the tank, winning games and taking wickets for Durham, although 500 wickets is a long way off yet.”