Durham will test our mettle – Fowler

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DURHAM University coach Graeme Fowler knows his side will have to stand up and be counted when they face County Champions Durham at the Emirates ICG.

Former England, Lancashire and Durham star Fowler now heads the MCC-sponsored School of Excellence at Durham University, and will lead his side into battle in a three-day game which starts on Monday.

Regardless of the final result, Fowler is sure his players will benefit from the test against the hosts, though he knows the students will have to learn quickly.

He said: “Two things that are very important if you are going to make it as a cricketer – the first is that you have got to have bottle, and you have got to be able to take the heat.

“And the other is that you have got to able to bounce back when things don’t go your way.

“At this level those things really are magnified, and both from my point of view as a coach and the players personally, we’ll both find out very quickly.

“If Graham Onions starts bowling really quickly at them, and starts sticking it up them and having a word at them, it’s about how they handle that, can they handle that?

“And then how do they come back from it.

The university have already took on First-Class opposition this season, having drawn a match away to Derbyshire last week.

And that gave some of the players a chance to show just what they are made of.

Fowler said: “We had a lad called Anish Paraam playing at Derby, and before he had even got off the mark, Tony Palladino bounced him.

“Anish went to hook it, but it smashed straight into his grill, it knocked him flat on his back and he nearly hit the stumps.

“He got up, and got stuck in, and he ended up being not out. I said to him afterwards, how was that? What about that bouncer, and he replied ‘yeah it woke me up’.

“That’s a fantastic reaction, because he’s realised yeah I made a mistake and got hit, and then he’s got on with it. You can’t buy that.”

Fowler is well aware that his side will face equally as tough opposition, if not more so, in Durham.

But he is keen for his side to make the most of their opportunity.

“Playing against Durham on Monday will be massive for my players,” he said. “Now that I’ve stopped playing, I tend to forget the magical feeling you get from playing on a Test ground against players of Test quality, and players who they have seen on telly.

“The thrilled look on their faces this week when they realised they were going to face (West Indies International) Shivnarine Chanderpaul was brilliant. It’s a once in a lifetime experience for them.

“But it’s also a chance to see what it’s like at that level

“They get to see, and get to realise ‘maybe it’s not as scary as I first thought, and maybe if I keep improving, I’ll be good enough to play at this level.

“They realise that it’s still just a game of cricket, it’s just at a much higher standard.”

A couple of seasons ago the university were bowled out by Durham for a record low score.

Fowler admits it was tough to take, but says no one will be running scared.

“We got bowled for 18, and that was heartbreaking for the players, but the following year the lads were desperate to get back to put that behind them. Everybody will be up for the game.”