All-rounder Coughlin eased back into first-team action in NatWest T20 Blast opener at Worcestershire

action from the third day of Durham v Somerset at The Emirates ICG, Riverside, Chester-le-Street - Durham bowlers, Onions, Hastings, Rushworth, and Coughlin (taking wicket)
action from the third day of Durham v Somerset at The Emirates ICG, Riverside, Chester-le-Street - Durham bowlers, Onions, Hastings, Rushworth, and Coughlin (taking wicket)
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Durham will kick-start Paul Coughlin’s return to first-team cricket in their opening NatWest T20 Blast match away to Worcestershire tonight.

The 23-year-old all-rounder from Sunderland has been carefully handled in the second team so far this season after suffering two lengthy lay-offs with back trouble.

A highly-rated seamer, he also showed his prowess with the bat by making 85 at No 10 on his championship debut at home to Lancashire two years ago.

He also made two half-centuries in the first seven matches last year and took 19 wickets at 23.31 before being ruled out for the rest of the season.

Coughlin sealed his place in tonight’s squad in unbeaten innings of 52 and 91, off a combined total of 84 balls, in two second X1 T20 matches at Edgbaston this week.

His bowling is also reported to be coming along well after a long period of recuperation.

“We have been particularly cautious with him in view of his injury record, but he’s doing really well,” said coach Jon Lewis.

“He is impressing everybody and this is an opportunity to let him get to grips with the white ball.”

Others who have played only second team cricket so far but will be in the squad include Phil Mustard and Scotland batsman Calum MacLeod.

One-day captain Mark Stoneman said: “With Michael Richardson and Stuart Poynter as well as the Colonel (Mustard) we have three keepers who could all get in for their batting alone.

“But the Colonel will start. His record speaks for itself and he’s a match-winner on form.

“Without John Hastings this season we are lacking an out-and-out power player at the lower end, so we have to be aware of that and not leave ourselves too much work at the back end of the innings.”

With Chris Rushworth out of action for at least another week with a buttock muscle injury, last season’s leading T20 wicket-taker Usman Arshad will take the new ball.

“He has great skills with the white ball and is really keen to take on the challenge of bowling two overs up front and two at the death,” said Stoneman.

There is a slight concern about four-day captain Paul Collingwood because of a toe problem, which has prevented him from bowling this season.

His gentle medium pace has been a key feature of Durham’s T20 attack in recent years and they might be reluctant to play him purely as a batsman a week short of his 40th birthday. But if he has his own way he will be in the side.