Durham way ahead of the rest

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Dale Benkenstein promo

Dale Benkenstein

Despite heading into the ongoing game against Nottinghamshire as nailed-on favourites to claim a second consecutive LV= County Championship title, Durham’s dominance over their nearest rivals - and the rest of Division One this season - has been startling.

Indeed, their wider rise from the whipping boys in English county cricket into the professional, well-oiled outfit currently on show at the Riverside has been as rapid as it has been impressive.

This week’s round of matches has proved a fine example of how far they have evolved, not only in the playing staff but also as a club - with first-rate facilities and playing conditions now the norm at the north-east county.

On the pitch in this game, they have been totally dominant. Michael Di Venuto’s outstanding double hundred on the opening day was as efficient as it was enthralling, his 219 being his second score in excess of 200 this season (a club record) and coming as part of an opening stand of 314 with Kyle Coetzer (also a club record).

With the many records achieved thanks to their first-innings 648 for five - not least it becoming the highest first-class score by the county - it is easy to become swept away in the moment.

Indeed, those with longer memories will point out that the record Coetzer and Di Venuto missed out on by just one run is a sound barometer of just how far the club have come in such a short space of time.

Durham’s record partnership still stands at 315, and was made three years ago by Dale Benkenstein and Ottis Gibson to stave off relegation against Yorkshire at Headingley. The county stayed up by the skin of their teeth to consign, ironically enough, Nottinghamshire to the drop.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul

Shivnarine Chanderpaul forms part of a formidable Durham middle order which has excelled in this game

Back to this season, and Durham’s all-round game has looked unmatchable over the course of this summer.

Their batsmen have been unheralded, yet it is telling to note they have only conceded a first-innings deficit on one occasion this season.

Batsmen such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul now make up their middle order, the West Indian scoring a redoubtable hundred today that not only gives him a championship average of 267 this season but also goes a long way in banishing all memories of his shock own goal during Wednesday’s obligatory football game before the start of play.

Bowling-wise, they posses an attack that has regularly taken wickets all summer.

Indeed, Graham Onions’ call into the England set-up was a direct result of the form that has seen him take 45 championship scalps at an average of 15.

On top of that, Steve Harmison has 46 wickets, Ian Blackwell 35, Liam Plunkett 31 and Callum Thorp 30, with only the final pair of that list averaging over 20.

It therefore becomes easy to see why the county is set to double their championship title successes tomorrow, and on this form it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to emulate the feat of the formidable Yorkshire side who captured three on the trot in 1960s.

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