INJURY-hit Durham have received a massive boost with news that England bowler Graham Onions could be back for their trip to Yorkshire on Thursday.
It was just the sort of good news Durham skipper Phil Mustard needed having seen his reduced bowling attack have to settle for a draw in their clash with Hampshire.
A delighted Mustard said: “It’s great news for me as captain. Bunny was always going to come back in April, but what we’ve been speaking about the last few days is whether he can play in our next game. He is fit, keen and raring to go.
“We’ll have a chat with him and it will ultimately be up to him whether he is ok to play. The advice he has been given is that he is good to go and he is desperate to play.”
That is great news for Mustard, who had the shine taken off his unbeaten 68 in the first innings, when a well-struck drive hit Steve Harmison and prevented him from bowling.
And he admits, it’s a case of wait and see on the fitness of the Ashington Express.
“We’re still not entirely sure what the situation is with Harmy, he’ll go to see the specialist and we’ll take it from there,” he said. “I have to take the blame for that one because it was me who hit the ball at him.”
Despite dominating the first three days of the match, Mustard and his men were unable to finish off Hants largely due to the stubborn resistance of Jimmy Adams, who made 105 before being caught at fine leg by Liam Plunkett off the bowling of Scott Borthwick.
But the Durham skipper, who also had to deal with the loss of batsman Mark Stoneman due to a broken hand, was upbeat about his side’s display.
“I think it has been a really positive start to the season,” he said. “The way the batters adapted to the conditions and scored a really big total in the first innings was a big effort. The pitch was a good one for the start of April, the conditions were good and we ended up in a stalemate.
“We’ve never lost our pride as a group. Last year was a little disappointing, but we’ve got that pride. We’ve come back fresh and raring to go. We’ve shown that against Hampshire and it’s a good start for us.”
Durham’s bowling efforts were clearly hampered by the loss Harmison, who bowled only three overs in the Hampshire second innings and not at all on a blustery last day.
However, despite being made to toil on a very flat pitch, they did make further inroads into the Hants batting line-up reducing them to 345-5 before the closing of play – Borthwick and Ian Blackwell both claiming two wickets and Liam Plunkett one.
In the end, Durham, who were the dominant force over the first three days, had to be content with 11 points and Hampshire with eight.