Durham’s Phil Mustard rallies his troops ahead of tough game

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DURHAM captain Phil Mustard has told his troops that they must be ready for a ‘massive’ battle when Lancashire arrive at the Emirates ICG tomorrow (11am start).

Geoff Cook’s side find themselves rooted to the bottom of the County Championship table after a winless start to their season in the four-day format.

Champions Lancashire come to town tomorrow in an equally precarious position – the visitors are also without a championship win, and are just two places above Durham, having played a game more.

Just nine points separate the two sides, and Mustard, pictured, knows it is crucial that his team give their all to try to make sure they get a positive result.

“It’s a massive game,” the Sunderland-born star said. “Both ourselves and Lancs were up there last season, but we haven’t really hit the ground running this season.

“It’s going to be a tough game. I think they will be ready for the battle, and I think we have to be ready for the battle as well, because if not then we could find ourselves in trouble.”

The predicament Durham have found themselves in so far this term in the four-day game has been down to a number of factors.

It’s no secret that some woeful batting displays have been the county’s biggest problem, but they have not been helped by the weather either.

Cook’s men have lost more days to rain than any other side in the championship this season – 12 to be precise – but Mustard says they can’t feel sorry for themselves over the weather, and that they must focus on the things they can affect. “It’s been a tough start, but we just have to take that and deal with it,” he said.

“We need to get one good performance. Once we get that it will put us back on the right track because at the minute people are a little bit hitty missy, and a little bit down.”

Durham had fun in the sun at the weekend, as they beat Scotland Saltires in the Clydesdale Bank 40.

Mustard (91) and opening partner Mark Stoneman (136) put on a first-wicket stand of 207 as they chased down the Saltires’s total of 258, and the wicketkeeper-batsman admits it was nice to gets some runs on the board with the weather set fair.

“It’s always nice to play cricket in the sun,” he said. “It brings the crowds out and we managed to put on a good performance for them.

“Now we need to turn it around in the championship. Once you get a couple of guys hitting form it makes things easier and hopefully Sunday’s win will set us up nicely for tomorrow.”

Despite their own poor form in the championship, Lancashire will still pose a threat, with batsmen like South African Ashwell Prince, Paul Horton and Steven Croft having hit centuries this season.

With the ball, Simon Kerrigan is their leading wicket-taker with 22 championship scalps so far.