Onions underlines Durham pride
Graham Onions’ sparkling Test debut is another example of everything falling into place for Durham and their chairman Clive Leach.
Tickets are still available for England’s second npower Test at the Riverside, and former television executive and erstwhile Warwickshire and Durham all-rounder Leach is pinning his hopes on fair weather and the enthusiasm of the north-east sporting public to help buck the trends of the ‘credit crunch’ and ensure healthy crowds.
The presence of Paul Collingwood in the England middle order was always going to be a help too, of course.
But when Onions bagged a seven-wicket match haul at Lord’s in England’s victory over West Indies, he put a smile not just on his own face but that of Leach and - crucially - thousands more on Tyneside.
Leach is flying back from Sri Lanka to see the start of the fourth Test to be staged at Riverside, which will coincide almost exactly with the fifth anniversary of the chairman’s tenure.
In that time, the team 74-year-old Leach played for back in the 1960s have gone from also-rans - as they struggled to establish themselves as English first-class cricket’s newest recruits - to champions last year in the tournament that matters most to all counties.
Leach has every reason to be proud of the achievements on and off the field of a county which now stages regular international cricket, and is a match for the best in all forms of the game.
England representation has also become an expectation for the cream of Durham’s cricketing crop, yet the chairman knows satisfaction at a job incredibly well done so far will not reap future rewards.
“In a very short space of time, we have won three trophies, and the championship last year was obviously such a great achievement,” he contends.
“We are the leading light in north-east sport, dare I say it, at the moment. But we must not rest on our laurels - you can always do better.
“It will be tougher this year, because everyone will be out to beat us. Consistency is what we are striving for - to be recognised as being a regular top-four club.”
Leach is prepared to concede current factors are not as conducive as they sometimes have been to a full house at Chester-le-Street.
Even so, it is clear neither Durham nor Leach have got where they are today without a positive approach.
“Obviously the economic situation is playing a part,” he reasons. “But with fine weather, I am certain we will see a very good crowd watching a very good Test match.
“There is the Test match against West Indies and one-day international against Australia (in September) - so everybody in the north-east has regular chances to see international cricket.”