THE threat of the dreaded drop may have faded, but Durham’s players are still playing for their futures, writes Gary Foster.
Geoff Cook’s side all but secured their Division One status for another season after a fourth consecutive County Championship win yesterday, but skipper Paul Collingwood says the mini-revival won’t stop them from ringing the changes.
While the Durham captain has been delighted with the way his charges have responded during his short time at the helm, the all-rounder hinted that the county was ready to cast the net far and wide in the search for new blood.
Tough choices lie ahead, but Collingwood feels the county can’t afford to shy away from them.
“You’ve got to make decisions that are not just good for the last few games, but good for the next five, 10 years of Durham after I’ve gone,” he said.
“There’s going to be players that we might look to bring in. There are positions we might have to look elsewhere.
“On the outside of the first team there are some real talented players that we can call upon but there’s still some positions where I think we need some solid guys coming in.”
Collingwood admitted that county has some good young talent come through the ranks, such as Mark Wood and Keaton Jennings.
But whether he chooses the remaining County Championship fixtures to blood more fringe players we will have to wait and see.
However, it does appear unlikely with Collingwood admitting their will be no easing off.
“We don’t want to sit back and relax and say we’ve avoided relegation. This is the time where we’ve got to keep moving forward, keep improving, keep our standards high.
“We’ve got an opportunity to break a Durham record for consecutive wins (in the Championship).
“We’ve equalled it with four consecutive wins, but it would be great if we could five or six – that would be an amazing turnaround.
“We try to break records for partnerships, bowling figures and all that kind of stuff. If we can do that we can turn the season around. It would be an unbelievable effort.”
Collingwood teamed up with Dale Benkenstein as Durham overcome a brief scare to see off relegation-threatened Worcestershire.
Coming together on 35 for four, still needing 116, the veterans shared an unbroken stand of 119 with Benkenstein finishing unbeaten on 62 and Collingwood on 53.
They took full advantage of Worcestershire’s lack of support for Alan Richardson, who took the three wickets to fall this morning after Durham resumed on three for one.
Keaton Jennings coped comfortably with Chris Russell’s big swingers, but for the second time in the match he was bowled through the gate when playing forward to a ball which did just enough off the pitch.
Play was immediately interrupted by a shower but when they resumed after 10 minutes Ben Stokes was off the mark first ball, turning Richardson behind square for four.
It seemed Durham must be worried about further rain as Mark Stoneman took three fours off Russell in the next over.
Back foot shots either side of the wicket were followed by a square drive, then Stokes drove Richardson to the extra cover boundary before trying to pull a ball which was too full for the shot. He fell lbw for eight and in Richardson’s next over Stoneman suffered the same fate for 22 when looking to drive wide of mid-on.
Russell was replaced by Gareth Andrew and the batsmen were able to continue collecting boundaries from that end while concentrating on keeping Richardson out.
Collingwood opened his account with two off drives for four off Andrew, the second one all-run after Russell had a long chase and flipped the ball back an inch before the rope.
When Richardson rested with three for 25 from 12 overs it became plain sailing and when Worcestershire turned to the off spin of Moeen Ali 15 came off his second over.
Durham needed 30 more runs at lunch and Benkenstein completed only his second half-century of the season off 75 balls with eight fours before cutting Ali for the winning boundary.
Worcestershire picked up only the three bowling points and are level at the bottom with Lancashire.
Collingwood admitted it was far from an ideal way to come to the crease.
“I was breathing very heavily when I came in,” he said.
“I was slightly concerned, I have to admit. But I thought myself and Dale showed a lot of experience there just to calm the situation down a bit and see off a good spell from Richardson.
“You always know Dale is brilliant to bat with. He keeps it very calm and you always know their bowlers have to come to you to get you out. I thought we simmered the situation down and managed to build a good partnership.”