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Durham doing it right

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Steve Harmison & Will Smith

Steve Harmison shares a joke with his new Durham captain, batsman Will Smith

What a difference a year makes. Crowned LV= County Champions in September, Durham’s pre-season media day had a buzz missing 12 months before.

That was the impression of this reporter, perhaps cutting it fine by arriving moments before England paceman Steve Harmison’s press conference in the Riverside Suite.

Whereas a year ago only two rows of chairs were necessary, despite the 2007 Friends Provident Trophy triumph, it was standing room only as the media scrum converged.

Harmison, sun-kissed following his weekend return from the West Indies, admitted to only having gone to sleep at 6.30am due to jet-lag. However, like his county team-mates, he was out in force.

Fresh from a two-week tour to South Africa, many shared Harmison’s tan as they modelled the county’s one-day kit - having first been pictured in their whites.

With the formalities of the customary photocall over, Durham’s tall, dark-haired media and PR manager Yvette Thompson scurried here and there, obliging the media’s many requests.

New captain Will Smith naturally played a prominent role while predecessor Dale Benkenstein, last week named one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year, kept a low profile.

Another notable figure in the background was veteran scorer Brian Hunt, enjoying a benefit season in his 35th year with the county.

New signing Ian Blackwell was in demand and looked in fine shape following his winter move north from Somerset.

Liam Plunkett

Graham Onions gives special attention to Liam Plunkett's hair

Liam Plunkett, named in England’s 30-man World Twenty20 squad along with Paul Collingwood and Harmison, spoke to whereas a year earlier he had been on the treatment table.

Collingwood was one of only two notable absentees, preparing for the India Premier League in South Africa with Delhi Daredevils. The other was the Division One trophy. The only evidence of that was on the front cover of the county’s yearbook.

This seemed indicative of the individuals’ collective attitude not to rest on their laurels, from head coach Geoff Cook downwards.

Perhaps a successful charm offensive? Questions of three trophies in as many years were met with a straight bat.

However, this is in line with the development of a county who gained first-class status in 1992 and took only 16 years to reach the pinnacle of English cricket.

Under the tutelage of Cook, they have become a force to be reckoned with in all forms of the game.

They can look forward to the return of number-one ranked Test batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul in June. The West Indies star will be briefly back at the Riverside prior to that, for the second npower Test in May.

A new, permanent two-tier stand is nearing completion in readiness for that contest, further evidence of the club’s ambition.

All the signs show the club is building in the right direction.

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