NED ECKERSLEY has spoken of the “honour” of being named captain of Durham’s red-ball side ahead of tomorrow’s opening game of the Bob Willis Trophy against Yorkshire.

The 30-year-old replaced Cameron Bancroft in the role after the Australian remained in his homeland amid the coronavirus pandemic. Eckersley captained Durham towards the end of last season when Bancroft donned the Baggy Green for the 2019 Ashes series.

Now in permanent charge, the wicketkeeper has set his sights on stamping his authority on the role and is eager for his team to take the fight to the opposition in their five group matches this term.

He said: “It’s a great honour to be named Durham captain. Having been only up here for around 18 months, it has been great to be involved in the club, but also the region. To be given the responsibility to lead the four-day team is a huge one in this shortened version of the season.

“I always look for a team that is extremely competitive. I don’t want us to be afraid to be in a scrap of a game with our opponents and not taking a backwards step. I want to let the guys go out there and express themselves.

“We’ve got a talented squad of players and my job is to get the best out of them and make sure they feel comfortable and confident to deliver their best on the field. If I can do that and they trust me, I’m confident we’re going to be in a good place.”

Durham host Yorkshire to begin the Bob Willis Trophy, and will play three of their five North Group matches at Emirates Riverside. Eckersley is hopeful that his team can maintain their strong home form from last term to spark a surge towards the crown.

“We want to make Emirates Riverside a very difficult place to come,” he added. “At the end of last season we started to play some good cricket at home. There’s going to be an element of the unknown because of the season starting in August and we don’t know how the wickets are going to play.

“Hopefully we can get into our stride and work out a method for success quickly at home. It’s definitely in our favour that we have three home matches and we have to capitalise. We have to make sure that when someone comes to Emirates Riverside they get a tough challenge and are under pressure straight away.

“With the shortened season you’re going to have to start strong. You can’t afford to be playing catch up.”