NEARLY six years ago, Durham were dramatically relegated to Division 2 of the County Championship due to financial issues after the ECB were forced to bail them out with a rescue package. It’s been a rebuilding job since being slapped with a 48 deduction in 2017, a four point penalty in the T20 Blast and a two point penalty in the One Day Cup.

In the present day, Durham stand in a strong position to finally make that jump back up to the top division when it all starts against Glamorgan tomorrow afternoon according to their head coach James Franklin.

The state of the club looks a whole lot different to 2016. The club is on a stable footing financially after playing host to numerous international matches, specifically in the 2019 Cricket World Cup along with other One Day internationals, as well as commercial events such as concerts and gigs. The hope is now that fortunes can change on the pitch given that the club as a whole looks much healthier.

After last season’s restructure of the leagues in the four day game, the ECB have reverted back to their original two division structure with Durham back in the second tier. Now that is the case, the focus has switched to aims of being promoted for Durham and returning to the top division. But the head coach honestly admitted he quite liked the previous format.

“This is my humble opinion, I was a big fan of conference cricket” said Franklin.

“I’m not sure that September was implemented correctly. That could have been readjusted but the decision has been made to go back to two divisions this year. Whether or not it goes on beyond 2022, we’ll find out through the summer.

“Like all the other eight teams in Division 2, we’re going to push for promotion. We have to be consistent. It’s six months of hard slog with a couple of other formats thrown in there as well but we are certainly looking forward to the challenge of trying to push for promotion come the end of the season in September.”

Durham are well backed to be in the promotion mix from Division Two with Nottinghamshire and former Division One winners Middlesex also fancied by the bookmakers.

The addition of Keegan Petersen will provide some much needed international experience to the squad while the blend of youth and experience, led by Chris Rushworth and captain Scott Borthwick, will tick a lot of boxes in theory.

But the head coach has been quick to point out that it’s not about being good enough on paper.

Franklin continued: “It’s one thing saying you want to do it. You’ve got to get out there and let your actions make your best statement and push you forward.

“56 days of cricket. You’ve got to be consistent to have a chance of promotion. Day One on Thursday, we work our way through it. We were very good last year. We became a harder team to beat last year but that doesn’t automatically mean you are going to get results this year.

“It’s a long hard up-and-down grind but if we can have more up days than down days then we can have a pretty good chance of getting promoted to the first division.

“I think that is the motivation. Trying to be one of those teams that are in the promoted slots come the end of the September.

“The club, the players, the coaching staff, everyone involved here wants to be involved in first division cricket, if it is first division cricket because we’re not quite sure of the structure for next year. If it is first division, then we want to try and be one of those teams in there next year so let’s see how we go.”