Durham end up as nearly-men

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IT was another season of what ifs and maybes for Durham as they came up short in their chase for the County Championship title.

Geoff Cook’s side had dominated the early part of the season, but in the end they had to settle for third.

Lancashire came out on top, winning their first Championship in 77 years, after a victory away to Somerset, while one-time favourites Warwickshire were pipped at the post after drawing with Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.

Durham had done the double over both their rivals, but despite making the early running, head coach Cook admitted a number of factors had gone against his side.

He said: “In the first two-thirds of the year, we were probably the best team in Division One.

“We played some excellent cricket and got ourselves in a good position in the league.

“Then a little bit of bad weather saw us draw games we could have won and there were one or two performances where if we’d played a little bit better we’d have obviously benefited from it.

“We also missed one or two players at crucial times.

“In the last third of the season things conspired against us a little bit, but also we didn’t play well.”

Durham rounded off their season with a convincing 151-run victory over Worcestershire at the Emirates ICG.

The visitors capitulated after reaching 128-2, chasing a total of 365 to win.

Seamers Graham Onions and Mitch Claydon claimed two wickets apiece while spinners Scott Borthwick and Ian Blackwell both picked up three scalps.

It was all over 15 minutes after lunch on the fourth and final day, as the hosts blitzed through the Worcestershire batting line-up.

The victory saw Durham finish the season on 232 points, three behind second-placed Warwickshire and 14 behind champions Lancashire.

And despite missing out on the county crown, Cook preferred to look at the positives of Durham’s finish rather than what might have been.

“It’s nice to take a win into the winter, especially as the team played really well in the last two matches,” he said.

“The team were outstanding down in Sussex and played really well here.

“We got a semi-final (Clydesdale Bank 40) and a quarter-final (T20) with the white ball stuff, which is okay, but it would been lovely to go a bit further in those two competitions.

“We played some really positive cricket in the championship, despite missing our main strikeforce of Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett and we had Michael Di Venuto miss a few games.”

Cook expects Harmison to return next season, but has warned that Ashington Express needs to rediscover his fitness.

However, the news may not be so good for Harmison’s fellow seamer, the injury-plagued Mark Davies, who is due to have a scan on a reoccurrence of an ankle injury.

Cook added: “We are waiting for some indication whether he is going to be able to come back from this injury and play any part at all.”

so he’s very much in the hands of the medical people.

“Steve’s got two years left on his contract. He made some very useful contributions early on in the season.

“With him in the team bowling well we are a much better team, but he’s getting to a stage where he’s got to get himself really fit over a sustained period.”