DURHAM continued their knack of producing high-quality, home grown players last season – but there’s one man in particular Graham Onions is tipping to go right to the top.
With a raft of bowlers injured at various points, including Onions himself, Peter Chase and Gavin Main both produced the goods when called upon and helped to steer Durham clear of Championship relegation.
I rate him very highly. He’s quite mature; he’s got all the attributes and skills to keep on progressing.
But it was Sunderland-born Paul Coughlin who made a lasting impression.
On his maiden 2014 outing, he showed confidence and composure belying his youthful years, scoring the highest total by a Durham number ten and taking four wickets in a match-winning performance to overcome Lancashire.
Coughlin continued to produce consistent performances and once again displayed his credentials under pressure, delivering a tight spell as Durham secured the Royal London One-Day Cup at Lord’s.
In less than 12 months, the bowler has gone from first XI hopeful to an integral cog in Durham’s seam bowling unit.
And his contributions didn’t go unnoticed by Onions, who sees comparisons between the early stages of his career and that of the 22-year-old’s to date.
“I rate him very highly. He’s quite mature; he’s got all the attributes and skills to keep on progressing,” said the 32-year-old.
“Me, Rushy (Chris Rushworth) and John (Hastings) will generally bowl our 20 overs for not many runs and pick up occasional wickets, so it’s a bit of a luxury to have somebody like Paul Coughlin.
“I did that when I first started, I had the likes of Killer (Neil Killeen) that would do a good job and you could afford to go at four-an-over and pick up your wickets.
“I’m not trying to say he wants to go for runs – he’s a better bowler than that.
“He’ll still bowl his 20 overs and get his wickets going a three-an-over because he’s a good bowler.”
Coughlin will likely line up for Durham’s second string today as he attempts to prove his fitness ahead of Sunday’s Championship match with Sussex.
He picked up a side strain during the opening win at Taunton, the same injury that plagued him at the start of 2014 and also one that interrupted Mark Wood’s progression last year.
Since then, Wood has gone onto represent England Lions and is currently eyeing a full Test cap in the West Indies.
And Onions, who bounced back from a career-threatening injury to star for his country, is adamant that Coughlin will follow Wood’s progression into the international ranks – but warned England not to rush the bowler.
“I believe he’s in good rhythm. He looks strong, fit and he bowls a heavy ball,” he said.
“During the summer and the Lions tours, I keep saying to him ‘you’ve got to aspire to get into those types of games’.
“We don’t want to build him up too much and throw him in at the deep end when it comes to England, which England sometimes have a knack of doing.”