THERE IS, as they say, life in the old dog yet.

Chris Rushworth, aged 32, is in his testimonial year. He’s excited about what lies ahead this summer for Durham Cricket – and intends to be around for a few more seasons yet.

“I keep getting asked if this is my last year because it’s my testimonial year!’’ he smiled in the knowledge he is under contract for 2020 too. “That’s certainly not the case, I want to play for a few years yet and it’s nice to have a testimonial but my main focus is on the pitch with Durham.’’

Rushworth is one of the game’s more durable bowlers. Durham can always rely on him to constantly probe batsmen, both at the Emirates Riverside and beyond. Taking over 400 wickets proves it.

There’s a pride in playing for his county, which he is only too willing to pass on.

“Players move around in the game more now and there’s a lot more money coming into the game which can turn players towards the bigger Test venues and with Twenty20 taking over the world, I guess loyalty isn’t quite what it was,’’ he reflected.

“Being a local lad I am proud to play for Durham from watching as a junior and being involved as a junior, so it means a lot to me.

“I want to see out the rest of my career here, just like Colly did and it’s something to be proud of.

“I’m one of the older players here now and when Colly left you look around the dressing room and think ‘crikey’!

“But it’s an exciting time for us all, the new coaches have their own ideas for us, a new way of thinking and being here for a long time I want to make sure some of the Durham traditions remain here within the squad.’’

Sunderland-supporting Rushworth stuck with Durham when others left during their troubled times. Now there’s a fresh start at Emirates Riverside.

“We had some hard times, but when people come here and see us they know the lads get on well,’’ he admitted. “You have to get on well and team spirit is key. Coming from the North-East we are proud and determined – characteristics we have been brought up with.

“It is like a family here. When I first started you don’t quite realise until you are part of it just how tight knit everyone is here. When you get invited into that circle and get your first cap you have to embrace it.

“I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a new season in a long time. There’s a buzz around the place with new ideas and opinions. I think we can do something special this year.’’

Rushworth has nothing but respect for Geoff Cook and Jon Lewis who left the club over the winter.

There’s a new coaching set up with James Franklin at the helm and Marcus North installed as director of cricket.

He said: “Geoff was part of my career forever, Jon was coach here for a long time, Colly has been around forever and while I admire and respect them to have new faces and new ideas in, we all get a little lift and a boost.

“Everyone is excited about the changes and the future. You need to prove yourself again, show the new people what you can do.

“There’s a lot of potential in the squad, maybe we aren’t that young but we are inexperienced. Potential can only go so far and it’s about turning that into something.

“There comes a time when results and performances need to stand up. James and Marcus together have brought something to the club and it’s a great time to be here.’’

Mark Wood joked that bowlers get overlooked for the captaincy, so while Rushworth was a candidate he was never going to get the role.

Instead it’s gone to Cameron Bancroft, which has caused a bit of a stir.

The Australian opener will be in charge for next week’s home game and will be welcomed into the dressing room.

“Getting a world-class player in your team can only be a good move,’’ said Rushworth. “We have an international director of cricket, an international coach and Bancroft has played international cricket so I’m sure he will bring a wealth of experience to the group.

“It can only be a positive thing. I’m sure it wasn’t easy coming back into the sport after what happened, but to come here, to captain Durham and take charge of this group epitomises what we are about in terms of mental strength and toughness. He will fit in very well.’’

Durham have signed wicketkeeper-batsman Ned Eckersley after impressing on trial. The right-handed batsman has scored over 5,700 first-class runs, scoring 14 centuries for Leicestershire across a seven-year period.