By Will Jackson
Durham all-rounder Scott Borthwick perhaps encapsulates what has been a real Jekyll and Hyde season in the north-east this year.
After the high of championship glory in 2013 and the rise to prominence of Borthwick and his good friend Ben Stokes, it was back to earth with a bang at the start of the campaign as Paul Collingwood‘s team struggled to reach the heights of last year.
They toiled for much of the summer and were firmly in the relegation dogfight at the start of August before a sequence of three consecutive wins, which coincided with a thrilling run in the Royal London One-Day Cup and eventually saw them lifting silverware at Lord’s after beating Warwickshire by three wickets in the final.
What a day!! Great win!! pic.twitter.com/4Y66VPAHHH
— Scott borthwick (@Borthwick16) September 20, 2014
After the success of last year, Borthwick readily admits 2014 was a bit of a disappointment for the team, while revealing he was also a little frustrated with his own form despite recording a career-best return of 1,187 runs in the LV= County Championship, which included a maiden double-century when he compiled 216 against Middlesex in June.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, he said: “As a team, looking back we’ve probably underachieved a bit in the end in the four-day competition but to win a trophy is a great achievement.
“At the start of the season you want to win trophies and to win the one-day competition was great.
“I know we’ve got a young squad, but we’ve got experience of winning trophies and big games because of the year before, which always means that going into the last four or five games we could win a couple of games and be safe.
“We lost games in the past where we probably would have won but on the personal side I finished the season strongly. Looking back I went so up and down, I think when I got runs I got them in big bundles.
“I started the season with a couple of twenties and thirties and felt in good nick but wasn’t getting the runs, then I had a good month where I got a double-hundred and two or three nineties, and in the middle I struggled a bit. I didn’t feel in bad nick. I just wasn’t getting the runs and then I finished the season strongly.”
However, it is with the ball that most people are looking towards the young leg-spinner. He was drafted into England’s touring Ashes squad after the retirement of Graeme Swann and was even earmarked as a long-term replacement by the man himself.
It proved to be a disappointing summer in that regard, with Borthwick claiming just 13 first-class victims in 16 games due to a finger problem that plagued him throughout the season.
“With the ball I think I bowled some good spells and some ordinary spells. I had a couple of cracks in my fingers in my right hand, which didn’t really help my bowling especially at the start of the season,” he said.
“I dropped a catch at slip and cracked my spinning finger but kept on playing and it didn’t really get any better. Then my middle finger cracked as well so I never really got going until the last few weeks of the season.
“At times I never really bowled enough. I didn’t bowl badly. I just didn’t bowl enough whether it be down to injuries the conditions or just not getting wickets.”
Despite the struggle, the Sunderland-born player is optimistic over his development, adding: “Bowling-wise I’ve probably learnt more this year than previous years. It hasn’t been a great year stats-wise but I’ve probably learnt more than in recent years. Hopefully it’s all stuff that I’ll put right next year.
“I think it’s just a case of bowling more and taking wickets. I haven’t been selected on any of the programmes but I’ll still hopefully be with the Lions after Christmas. But if not then it’s not the end of the world, I’m still a young leg-spinner and I know it takes time.
“You look at (Adil) Rashid who’s been around the England squad then come out. He’s had a couple of good years for Yorkshire and he’s back in which is good.”
Borthwick missed out on selection to travel to Sri Lanka with the England Performance Programme, but he is still hopeful that he is in the minds of the selectors.
He said: “I’m sure they don’t think I’ve become a bad player overnight so hopefully they’re still looking at me and if I can get the rhythm I need to get wickets then I’m sure they will come calling again.
“I’ve just got to work on getting wickets. I feel like my batting has definitely improved over the last two years with the runs I’ve got so hopefully I can continue to improve and keep on learning.”
Next on the schedule is a bit of precious R & R, but it is not all going to plan for the 24-year-old.
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) September 27, 2014
“At the moment I’m having a bit of time off. I spoke to England spin bowling coach Peter Such and the Durham coaches and I’ve had a busy four or five years,” he added.
“I’ve never stopped with the Lions or playing grade cricket or even England so we thought it would be a great idea to have a bit of time off and do a fitness programme, which is something I’ve never done.
“I’ll be going to Sri Lanka after Christmas if I’m not with the Lions to play six or seven weeks of first-class cricket over there, which will be good for me.
“I just need to get through this next two months and I’m bored already! I’m not quite sure what to do. I’ll try to go to as many football matches as I can and play a bit of golf while I do my gym work and then get going again after Christmas.”
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