I know we’ve already got one Cricket Blog associated with the site but to be fair, young Mr Hurst’s interest lies with the England Cricket team whereas our bright-eyed new Blogger comes from the deep south of Durham and its excellent, Durham CCC. Allow us to introduce you to Tom Bates, Mag and Durham CCC acolyte. Take it away, Tom … 

Let’s drink to Durham CCC……

(The Batting Bowling and Boozing Blog)

A new addition to the TF site is my cricket blog covering Durham County Cricket Club Durham1matches, where cricket following Geordies and Mackems alike come together for the Durham CCC cause, but still relentlessly take the piss out of each other regarding football matters after the days play. Mentions of the 3 nil Derby win are countered by ‘have you ever seen a mackem in Milan’, etc, etc.

After this introductory blog I will look to put something up on a match by match or week by week basis and additionally focus on a specific player as an extra feature, maybe focusing on one of the local bars if at all relevant and I’m not taking liberties with my word limit!

As the title is a bit naff I will try an think of something better by the next blog.

The story of the 2013 season so far…… 

Durham CCC continued with their excellent form in the 2013 season by completing a fairly comfortable victory in the must win match with Derbyshire Falcons at Chester le Street, Riverside on Sunday, and putting themselves into the T20 quarter finals in the process. This completed a remarkable turnaround by the Dynamos who sat bottom of the North group after (roughly) the halfway stage of the group matches, but 5 wins from the last 6 games including 4 wins on the bounce propelled the Dynamos into 3rd place out of the 6 sides in the North group and a quarter final qualifying position by virtue of gaining more points than the 3rd placed team in the Midlands group, Glamorgan. Durham were made to sweat on the result of the Glamorgan Gloucester match but a surprise Gloucester win meant the Dynamos progressed to the quarter finals and an away tie.where a win would book Durhams place at finals day, to be held at Edgbaston Birmingham on Saturday the 17th August. Durhams away tie will be against one of the other group winners.

Newcastle lad Gordon Muchall blasted an unbeaten 66 off 36 balls to top score for Durham whilst captain Mark (Rocky) Stoneman from Sunniside contributed 47 runs from 34 balls as Durham posted an imposing total of 187 for 3 from their 20 overs. In reply Derbyshire struggled to 55 for 4 and eventually finished being bowled all out for 150 in 18.5 overs, ultimately well short of their target Graham Onions from Gateshead, not currently required by England took 2 for 23 for Durham from his 4 overs with Sunderland boys Scott Borthwick and Chris Rushworth weighing in with figures of 19/2 and 34/2 respectively.

Big Hitter and all-rounder Ben Stokes part new Zealander, part Cumbrian but adopted Durham2Durhamer (sic) has hit a rich vein of form in the competition, scoring 277 runs at 39.37 so far and showing why the England selectors have included him in England’s T20 squad

Gordon Muchall tops the Durham averages in the competition scoring 245 runs at an average of 49, with Chris Rushworth being their most effective bowler with 13 wickets at an average of just 20.

If Durham had narrowly missed out on qualifying they would no doubt be rueing the 0.25 of a point they had deducted for an alleged breach of the salary cap, that proving to be the difference between Durham finishing in 2nd place above Lancashire in the group and automatic qualification for the quarter finals. They have also suffered a similar small points deduction in the 40 over and County Championship competitions.

Your humble blogger actually missed the match in favour of a lads weekend in Edinburgh, complete with embarrassing and unsuccessful chat up lines, and plentiful pints of the local Caledonian beer and Belhaven Best soothing the pain of rejection from the local ladies, their loss of course. Fantastic city in my opinion.

Durham also top group B of the 40 over competition, the YB40, after 8 matches with 4 Durham3games remaining and are on course to qualify for the semi-finals of the competition. The crucial result so far came with Durham beating a strong Hampshire side at home on a sunny Saturday to leapfrog them into 1st place. Gordon Muchall is averaging 87 with the bat from his 8 matches, with Chris Rushworth leading the bowling attack with 16 wickets at an average of 18.

With injuries to the one day captain and Durham stalwart Dale Benkenstein, coach Geoff Cook has given Mark Stoneman the opportunity to captain the one day sides.

The lads have performed admirably continuing they were written off as a side in transition at the start of the season and having to cope with the shock of head coach Geoff Cooks sudden illness. Thankfully Geoff is out of hospital and hopefully on the mend. Ex DCCC opening batsman and 2nd team coach Jon Lewis has stepped in and results have continued to be positive. For those who don’t know Middlesbrough born Geoff has been a key part of the sides rise to prominence from coaching the youth teams to leading the first team to two County Championships in 08 09 and the Friends Provident Trophy in 07. He also played Test cricket for England in the early 80s and had a long and successful career as Captain of Northamptonshire in the early 80s, the North East not having a first class county during this period.

Taking a leaf out of the Newcastle United book of preseason squad building no major signings were made while key players were allowed to leave, leaving many supporters expecting a season of struggle in the County Championship. Also in the manner of Newcastle United in the 11-12 season, relegation fears were quickly dispelled as the side collected a set of positive results despite an early season setback to home to Yorkshire, due to a knock of 182 from England opener Joe ‘Baby face’ Root.to rise up the table. At home the lads have beaten Somerset, lost to Yorkshire after a generous declaration from Captain Colly, were frustrated by the rain after dominating the game against Middlesex and ultimately settling for a draw. Durham also thrashed winless wonders Derbyshire, with young opening batsman Keaton Jennings scoring his maiden Championship century for in this match..

The home game against last seasons champions Warwickshire was an incredibly tight and DurhamFlagtense affair, Durham ultimately coming out on top after the Brummie side got to a position where they looked to have won it but managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Chasing 256 to win in the 4th innings of the game Warwickshire stated poorly and found themselves 146 for 7, they then recovered to reach 232 for 7 only needing 24 to win with the two batsmen looking very comfortable. Suddenly both were dismissed and when Patel holed out in the deep to be out for 50 Durham finished off the tail and won a game that looked to have been lost. The away trips have brought wins at Nottinghamshire and Surrey; a draw at Somerset and thrashing by Warwickshire in their opening away game.

The win at Nottinghamshire was perhaps the most staggering in Durhams first class history, needing 183 to win in the fourth innings with only time for 23 overs to be bowled, they incredibly reached their target with overs to spare. Facing the bowling of Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, Mark Stoneman hit Durhams fastest ever first class half century from just 24 balls and in partnership with Phil Mustard put on 125 in 12 overs. The team had been evacuated from their hotel during the night due to a fire alarm and had to wait three hours before being rehoused but the lack of sleep didn’t seem to affect the batsman judging by their performance on the final day.

The lads currently sit 3rd in the LVCC County Championship Division One, with 5 wins 2 Durham4draws and two defeats so far,19.5 points behind leaders and local (sort of) rivals Yorkshire, but with a game in hand and 12.5 points behind Sussex with 2 games in hand. With a maximum of 16 points + 8 bonus points for a win, Durham at this stage with 8 games remaining have every chance of reclaiming the title they won in consecutive seasons in 2008, 2009. They still have Sussex to play home and away whilst the away game with Yorkshire at Scarborough could be the key fixture in the season. Middlesex are also close behind and still in the mix.

Key contributors in the four day format have been opening batsman Mark Stoneman, the opening batsman notching up two hundreds and five fifties so far and all-rounder Scott Borthwick hitting two centuries and three half centuries in the no three spot.

In the bowling department Chris Rushworth, Graham Onions and Ben Stokes, have all taken 30 plus wickets so far, Rushworth 30 wickets at an average of 20.93, Onions 35 at 23.20 and Stokes 30 at 24.70.

The team has exceeded all expectations and the young lads have really stood up and made significant contributions this season. Happy days so far.

The superb summer this year has meant few draws and more results in the County Championship this year, meaning a larger than average points total looks set to be required to claim the Division One title.

Durham next game is a four day County Championship match beginning on Friday against 4th placed Middlesex at Lords where quick bowler Steven Finn, not selected in the England squad for the third ashes match is expected to play with the aim of bowling himself back into form and being recalled for the final two tests.

Yours truly is there for the weekend which will be the subject of the next blog complete with pictures of the trip and the handsome lads attending. Can’t guarantee that the Sunderland fans will agree to be pictured in a NUFC fanzine though, they don’t get called the SMB’s for nothing.

Attentions at the Riverside, Chester le Street then turn to the upcoming Ashes match Durham5beginning the following Friday, the 4th test against a seemingly dispirited and distinctly average Aussie side, with England potentially having won the series by then but going for the 5-0 whitewash. A new blue stand has been shipped over from last year’s Olympic beach volleyball, to up the capacity for this match and a section of the seats will remain permanently. The bar staff are poised for a busy 4 or 5 days. Expect a bargain price of 4 pounds a pint specially increased for the game! Yours truly has a ticket for the first 3 days, fingers crossed for some good weather at ‘costa del Chester.’ This is a great opportunity to showcase the region to the nation though I doubt many of the Barmy Army will be impressed by the slightly sad looking Chester front Street. Least the ground looks canny with Lumley Castle in the background. Try explaining to some of the Cockneys that follow cricket that Durham isn’t in Newcastle and you’ll receive blank looks in my experience. Listen for Sky Sports presenter David Gower pronouncing it as Chester lu Street rather than Chester LEE street as we would pronounce it. Legendary drinker, charity walker (and half decent cricketer in his day) Ian Botham who had a stint at Durham in the early 90s and has a house in the region will probably also be in the commentary box and knocking about in the ground. Botham played for us in the pre Riverside days at the Durham Racecourse ground and will no doubt be impressed by how far Durham have come in the 20 or so years since he played for us.

For anyone whos considering coming along to the Durham games, give it a go, preferably when the suns out, even if you find the action a bit slow at times theres always a pint or 5 to keep you going. Sit in a different stand every session to keep it interesting, there always plenty of spare seats. The club needs the support. Most of the lads are from the region which is an entirely different feel to the local football teams. Membership is very reasonably priced and gives you full access to the members lounge and the members balcony and bar (where we retreat to if its peeing down or on the distinctly cold side outside.)

This sounds a bit cheesey but a few days at the County Championship matches during the week are more rewarding in my opinion than the one day stuff, shame a little inconvenience called work can get in the way of the cricket sometimes midweek.

Tom Bates