MATTHEW POTTS is hoping his early-season performances with Durham will enable him to force his way back into the England Test side.

Potts has made six Test appearances and also appeared in four ODIs, but he was left out of the squad for the winter red-ball tour of India, instead featuring in the England Lions squad that suffered a series defeat in the same country.

His most recent Test appearance came in the early stages of last summer, when he was part of the England side that beat Ireland at Lord’s, but finds himself heading into a new season with the international picture in a state of flux.

Stuart Broad has retired, James Anderson is likely to be used fairly sparingly as he comes towards the end of his career, and while there is a batch of talented fast bowlers hoping to feature in this summer’s home Test series against West Indies and Sri Lanka, places are certainly up for grabs.

The first summer series against West Indies does not begin until mid-July, so with the County Championship season beginning when Durham host Hampshire at Seat Unique Riverside on Friday, Potts is hoping a strong start to the Division One campaign will give the England selectors a timely nudge.

“Everything’s kind of up for grabs, essentially,” said the Sunderland-born seamer. “I don't think there's a guaranteed way to go about it. It's very much, ‘What do we think is the best XI to take an opportunity to win that specific game?’

“There's obviously an opportunity for a fourth seamer to put a claim in, I guess, but we've got a pack of fast bowlers that are all great candidates for that job, and it's just a matter of who's knocking on the door the hardest. That's where you go back to your own discipline, and keep putting your hand up with performances for Durham.

“I do think there's a great opportunity for the fast bowlers to kind of work together as a pack. The Test side is probably going to involve six or seven seamers. The kind of advice that we're getting is that we need a pack of bowlers that are going to do great things, it's not going to necessarily be three seamers, and the same three seamers the whole time, because that's just very unrealistic. There's going to be injuries, there's going to be loss of form, but it's going to be that pack of bowlers that gets the job done.”

Potts is understandably desperate to be part of that pack, but whatever happens this summer, Durham should still see plenty of the Wearsider, who finished last season as the second highest wicket-taker in Division Two.


While Ben Stokes and Mark Wood will be rested for lengthy periods if they are not involved in international action, 25-year-old Potts will be putting his hand up for Durham selection whenever possible.

“Every game that I'm not playing or not in a squad for England, I will be coming back to play for Durham,” he said. “Our goal is to win the trophy, so I'm going to come back and do my best to try to put the performances in for that.”

Having won promotion from Division Two last season, it is realistic to think that Durham could challenge for the Division One title this summer?

Potts certainly thinks so, playing down the size of the gap between the two divisions in the domestic game and talking up the strength of a Durham squad that has been bolstered by the signing of Australian Test bowler Scott Boland and the acquisition of both Colin Ackermann and Callum Parkinson from Leicestershire.

“What's the point in getting promoted if you're not going to try to win the big one? We're going to try to win it,” said Potts, who is part of the Durham squad completing their pre-season warm-up with a two-day practice game against Yorkshire that began yesterday. “There's every chance this season will have more ups and downs because that's just the way sport is, so the challenge then will be to still having complete faith in what you do and not feeling like you have to take a step back if there is an odd defeat or difficult day.

“That’s the difference between good teams and great teams. Can you still have 100 per cent backing? You see it with the Test side - if they have a bad game, they're going to approach the next Test the exact same way. That's what great teams do - they don't falter or change their tactics just because of one loss or one setback.

“Yes, the season might be a bit more turbulent than last year because everything did go very well for us, but if it doesn’t go the same, we're going to try to grab the bull by the horns and ride our way back up to the crest.”