DURHAM’S collapse, which came to a head in 2016, manifested itself in lots of different ways. First, the club lost money, lots of it, necessitating the ECB bailout that came with so many crippling strings attached. Then, the former county champions were stripped of their top-flight status, docked points and denied the right to stage Test matches at their Emirates Riverside home. Finally, and perhaps most hurtfully, the club was also forced to wave goodbye to some of its favourite sons.

At the end of the 2016 season, Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman upped sticks and left in an attempt to safeguard their careers. A year later, and it was Graham Onions, Paul Coughlin and Keaton Jennings deciding that a cricketing life in the North-East was no longer for them. Over the course of just over a year, Durham were stripped of five players who had contributed 791 first-class wickets and 20,995 first-class runs. Little wonder they subsequently struggled.

That, though, is the past. Slowly but surely, the tide has turned, and the exodus has been reversed. In 2018, Ben Raine came back to Chester-le-Street. Twelve months later, Coughlin re-signed. At the end of last year, Borthwick agreed to cut short his stay at Surrey in order to return to his native North-East.

An England international, in the prime of his cricketing life as he prepares to turn 31, back in the fold and immediately installed as four-day skipper. Borthwick could have gone pretty much anywhere after deciding to leave Surrey; the fact he chose Chester-le-Street is proof of both Durham’s new-found ambition and the strength of the hold the club exerts over those it has helped to nurture.

“The North-East is a special place,” said Scott Borthwick, in response to a question about the motivations behind his return home. “People leave, but generally but we come back. We’re passionate about our area, and we’re very passionate about our club. I came through here from the Under-11s and there’s a bunch of us who have done that. So, playing for Durham means everything to us.

“It’s the one club in the North-East and we’re all desperate to do our best for it. And then it’s probably the people up here too. We’re a friendly bunch, and you notice that when you get on the tube in London, you try and talk to someone and you look like a bit of a weirdo! It’s a special place that drags you back.”

Crucially, though, it is also somewhere that offers Borthwick an opportunity to enjoy cricketing success and perhaps silence some of the critics that would brand his high-profile move to Surrey as something of a failure.

Having won the County Championship with Durham, Sunderland-born Borthwick added another county title to his CV during his four seasons at the Oval, but was unable to add to his four England appearances, all of which came when he was playing for Durham.

As a leg-spinning all-rounder, a spell at the Oval should have been manna from heaven for him, but for a variety of reasons – injury, limited opportunities, perhaps a degree of pining for the North-East – things did not quite work out as planned.

As a result, he finds himself back at the club he first joined as a teenager, when he would combine his academy development with character-building spells at Philadelphia and Tynemouth.

“I’ve changed a lot since those days,” said Borthwick. “Someone joked that I left a boy, and that I’m coming back a man. It’s corny, but it’s about right. I left as a 26-year-old for London, and living in the big bad world you do grow up. Then, as a cricketer, you’re in a dressing room with some big players and I learned a lot from that.

“I’ve been lucky enough to share dressing rooms with some of the very best - Kumar Sangakkarra, Hashim Amla, people like that. Then coming through at Durham, I was lucky to play for the likes of Dale Benkenstein and Paul Collingwood, two fantastic captains. They’re the type of people I’ll be aspiring to as I start captaining the team – I’m still only 30, and the exciting thing is I feel like the best years are ahead of me.”

In some respects, Borthwick rejoins a club that has been transformed. The financial position has been successfully stabilised despite the understandable challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Tim Bostock is ensconced as chief executive with Marcus North (director of cricket) and James Franklin (head coach) responsible for performances on the pitch, which have improved steadily over the last couple of years.

Four years on, however, and Borthwick is also aware of just how much has remained the same. Durham’s commitment to sourcing and developing North-East talent remains intact, along with the enduring bond that binds the club to its regional hinterland. Some familiar faces remain, most notably the evergreen Chris Rushworth, who will almost certainly become Durham’s all-time leading wicket-taker in the next couple of months, and both Raine and Coughlin, who preceded Borthwick along the path back home.

“It’s a weird thing to say – but it’s all the same and yet completely different,” said the Wearsider. “The ground is the same, the nets are the same, same squad number, same spot in the dressing room and same county cap. A lot of is the same, but it’s different management and a lot has obviously happened with the club in the last few years. I think it’s an exciting time to be part of Durham."