Match Preview: Durham vs Lancashire
The second match of the Bob Willis Trophy gets underway tomorrow at Emirates Riverside
Both sides get an immediate opportunity to bounce back from opening round defeats; Lancashire against Leicestershire at New Road and Durham at home to Yorkshire.
The Red Rose were on the wrong end of a thrilling finale in Worcester, with Leicester chasing down a target of 150 in the final 17 overs to win by seven wickets.
A trio of debutants in George Balderson, Tom Hartley and Ed Moulton showed promise, but the experience of Foxes batting duo Ben Slater and Colin Ackermann proved too much.
A number of more experienced heads are set to return from England One-Day International duty or injury, giving the team a different look in the North East as they bid to get on a roll which will put them in contention for top spot in the North and with it a final appearance.
Luke Wood missed out against Leicestershire with hip stiffness, though he could make his Lancashire debut in Durham after a winter move from Nottinghamshire.
Richard Gleeson, Liam Livingstone and Saqib Mahmood have all been in England’s squad for the ODI series victory Ireland at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl and could return. Mahmood, however, was the only one who played in the three-match series.
Matthew Parkinson remains sidelined with an ankle injury which ruled him out of that aforementioned series.
Both counties will continue to be without their quartet of England Test players - Jimmy Anderson, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood - due to the first Test against Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford.
Durham were beaten by six wickets against Yorkshire in a low-scoring contest.
Bowled out for 103 in the first innings, they fought back manfully with ball and then bat to give themselves a sniff of victory. They restricted Yorkshire to a lead of 96 on first innings before reaching 221-3 in their second innings.
Then came the game changer as they lost their last seven wickets for 45 runs to leave Yorkshire chasing only 171. At 4-2, Durham were buoyant again, but they had given themselves just too much to do.
Captained by former Leicestershire wicketkeeper Ned Eckersley, their coach is the former New Zealand all-rounder James Franklin. Their Director of Cricket is ex-Australia and Lancashire batsman Marcus North, who had a brief overseas spell with the county in 2005.
South African David Bedingham has signed a one-year Kolpak deal and impressed against Yorkshire, scoring 77 in the second innings. Opener Alex Lees also hit a fine second-innings century.
Veteran seamer Chris Rushworth will take the new ball. He claimed his 500th First-Class career wicket on Sunday and had a formidable partnership with Onions for many years.
Durham will also have highly-rated England Lions seamer Brydon Carse back in their ranks. He was part of England’s one-day training squad in Southampton prior to the Ireland series and missed the opening round of the Bob Willis Trophy as a result.
The two counties played out a hard-fought draw at the picturesque Sedbergh School in last year’s County Championship Division Two.
After Durham opted to bowl in early July, Rob Jones (52) and Dane Vilas (72) posted fifties in 337 all out before Graham Onions claimed 5-93 against his former and home county to bowl them out for 291.
Lancashire’s 46-run lead was built on with 247 all out in the second innings, including 85 for captain Vilas.
Durham were set 294 before lunch on Day Four, but Australian opener and skipper Cameron Bancroft denied them with a fine 92 not out as they finished on 194-6 after 75 overs.
Durham had slipped to 39-3, but Lancashire’s attack, minus Jimmy Anderson who bowled only 18.2 overs in the first innings due to a calf injury, were unable to convert the early advantage.
Bancroft had hit 77 in the first innings, ensuring both skippers hit two fifties in the match.
WHAT THEY SAID
Fielding three first-class debutants at New Road in George Balderson, Tom Hartley and Ed Moulton certainly had Steven Croft in reflective mood.
“I heard about the stat that the last time Lancashire played three debutants in a First-Class game was when myself, Tom Smith and Simon Marshall debuted against Oxford Uni at the start of 2005,” said the 35-year-old all-rounder.
“George was also born in the year 2000, which was the year I made my second-team debut. It rubs it in that I’m getting on a bit!
“For the last few years we’ve usually had Jimmy (Anderson) or Bunny (Onions) or Shiv (Chanderpaul), so I haven’t been the oldest out there. But it got to that stage.”
Croft has played a small part in the development of the trio. With an eye on coaching post his playing career, the Blackpool-born former captain has been working with the county’s up and comers during recent winters.
“I’ve seen them come through the age-groups, the Emerging Players Programme and the Academy, and I’ve done a bit of work with them,” he said.
“I was in that first cohort, and it’s nice to see others do the same. We’ve produced some great cricketers in the past, and that’s what our system is there for.”
“But there is definitely still value in bringing people in like Keaton Jennings, Woody and Bunny. They are all quality players and people, and our youngsters can learn a lot from them.
“That Championship Division One status will still be there next year, and the young lads will have that experience under their belt,” added Croft. “It increases competition for places, which can only be a positive.”
Croft, who has just started his 16th season as a first-team pro, may be in the latter stages of a memorable career, but his appetite for success has not diminished one bit.
That was evident in his performance against Leicester, hitting 63 and 52 not out, but unfortunately he couldn’t prevent a defeat which dents Lancashire’s chance of success in the Bob Willis Trophy but far from ends it.
The opening round results - wins for Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire - certainly point to this being an open group.
“If you get two or three wins, you’ll be there and thereabouts for that top spot in the group,” said Croft.
“But there’s definitely no room for manoeuvre because you haven’t got the games to claw it back like you do in the Championship.”