DURHAM coach Geoff Cook believes Paul Collingwood is breathing new life into what has been a dreadful County Championship campaign.
The men from the Emirates ICG have spent most of the season rooted to the foot of the championship table and without a win.
A comprehensive victory over fellow strugglers yesterday – Cook’s men beat the visitors by an innings and 38 runs – added to last a 15-run win over Middlesex in their previous four-day clash, means Durham are now sixth in the table, and Division One survival looks to be within their reach.
Prior to those two games, Durham had not won a single championship game all season, and that dismal form led to then skipper Phil Mustard being replaced at the helm by England star Paul Collingwood.
Cook was quick to praise the efforts of Mustard during his time as four-day captain, but did admit that the appointment of Collingwood seems to have freshened things up.
“I think Colly has had a huge impact,” he said. “He gave everyone a boost initially when he was appointed as skipper, and things have gone on from there.
“I don’t want to sound critical of Phil Mustard, because he did a fantastic job, but it’s a change of voice, and he (Collingwood) has given a real positive lead in terms of the discipline needed in terms of the bowling unit.
“Whether it’s coincidental or whether it’s because of that somebody like Stokes has really improved as a bowler over the last three or four games and whether it’s because of that direction or whether it was happening anyway I’m not quite sure, but with Onions around also he’s a quality performer and those two look a real threat.
“On top of that, Rushworth is developing all of the time, so the right people are bowling well and playing well at the right time.”
The bowling attack certainly delivered against Surrey, having been reduced to 129 all out in their first innings, the visitors fared little better second time around with the bat.
Chasing Durham’s first innings total of 310, they never really looked likely of reaching their target and when they closed on 69-5 at the end of day two, you had to feel the writing was on the wall for them.
So it proved, as they were all out for 143 before a slightly delayed lunch.
The result was a huge shot in the arm for Durham’s survival hopes.
The hosts went into the game 15 points behind Surrey in the table, but by close of play they were six ahead of the away side, and to make matters worse for Chris Adams’s side they were deducted one of the three points they picked up during the encounter for a slow over rate.
Durham are still not out of the fire in terms of the fight against relegation to Division Two, but Cook feels that the side now have a clear view of what is required, and hopefully the momentum to pull it off.
“We’ve had two positive results in our last couple of County Championship games, but the signs were good before that,” he said.
“It’s still only two wins, and we know that we have to get at least another two from the next four games to get ourselves into a safe position, which is obviously the short-term aim for the season.”
Surrey’s bid to save the game got off to the worst of starts as nightwatchman Tim Linley fell just six balls in, lbw to Chris Rushworth without adding to his side’s overnight tally.
Nine overs later he was followed back into the pavilion by opener Rory Burns.
Having faced 130 balls on his way to 39, Burns was caught behind by Mustard, as he was unable to deal with a rising delivery from Graham Onions.
Matthew Spriegel might have thought his luck was in when he survived an appeal for caught behind off Callum Thorp, but a ball later he got a top edge off a rising delivery and Ben Stokes sprinted from the slips to make an excellent catch.
Spinner Scott Borthwick was brought into the action, and while he went for 10 runs in his opening over, he began to rein in the Surrey batsman, and having bowled four overs for 24 runs his leg break delivery saw Jon Lewis caught at first slip by Collingwood.
The Sunderland-born star struck again to round things off and seal the win, this time Gareth Batty was the victim, pulling a catch straight to Mark Stoneman at deep mid-wicket.
Once again the Durham bowling attack had delivered, but this time they had been backed up by a solid batting display, something which pleased the spectators and coach Cook alike.
He said: “We have talked incessantly about tough batting conditions this season, and you begin to wonder if you are making excuses.
“For this game we have had good weather and it was the best pitch we’ve had here this season, which was reflected in the batsmen’s ability to stay in.”