Unlike may other counties, Durham have stuck with a tried and trusted overseas player for 2015, a season in which they could play large parts without England duo Ben Stokes and Mark Wood.
Kevin Howells (BBC radio)
They love being written off but never will be by me. Another trophy under their belt last year and developing a knack of unearthing good match-winning players. Challenging on championship and one-day front again.
David Fulton (Sky Sports News)
Playing on pitches that do a bit means they tend to be involved in plenty of results. Their seam attack has made a lot of them positive ones, so the key will remain keeping Onions and Rushworth fit, especially when Wood is away. I like Stoneman, his runs are crucial.
But Durham, who won the Royal London One-Day Cup last year, are very happy with their Duke.
Big John Hastings – that’s John Wayne Hastings, to give The Duke his full name – may not have the global profile of Gayle, McCullum or Maxwell. But the 29-year-old was the leading wicket-taker, and voted Most Valuable Player, for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash this winter.
“A lot of counties are making big name signings for short-term during the T20,” said Jon Lewis, Durham’s first-team coach. “We’ve got the MVP from the Big Bash for the whole summer. So we’re quite pleased with that. It’s not quite the big announcement that some counties are making, but we’ve got the player.”
Hastings, who proved a perfect fit in the north-east in his first season with the club last summer, arrived on Good Friday, and will again be available, and keen, to play in all forms of the game – starting with the LV= County Championship opener against Somerset in Taunton.
That is just as well given the disruption Durham have endured to their spring planning, with England call-ups for Mark Wood and Ben Stokes, and an injury doubt over Graham Onions after he picked up a minor groin problem on the pre-season trip to Dubai.
— John Hastings (@johnhastings194) April 5, 2015
However, Lewis admits a big part of the appeal of Hastings to the Durham management is his proven Twenty20 quality.
“I’m a bit concerned we haven’t been as good as we might have been in T20,” added the coach. “Our success stands up to any other counties in the four-day and the one-day really in the last 10 years, and we’re really proud of that. But the T20, we’ve just made the one finals day in the history of the competition.
“Reaching the quarter-finals two years ago was okay but we need to get the side back to the finals day. We need to make a bit more of an impact on the competition basically.
“So we’re delighted to be having John back – not just for T20, although we are looking forward to his impact in that competition.”
The absence of Wood and Stokes will inevitably affect Durham this spring, but nobody at the club begrudges the pair their national selection.
“We found out on the day we flew out to Dubai, and we had a suspicion it would happen,” said Lewis. “They’re cracking lads, they’ve both come through our system, and we’ve got to be pleased about that.
“We don’t know at this stage how much of the season but we know they’re going to be away for April and into May, and obviously we hope it goes really well for them out in the West Indies and that will obviously impact on how much they’re available after that.”
Durham are even magnanimous enough to suggest England take a look at a couple more of their players, again locally-produced.
Gateshead’s Mark Stoneman has been one of the most consistent openers in the country for some time now and Sunderland’s Scott Borthwick, although owing his surprise Test selection among the debris of the 2013-14 Ashes demolition to his leg-spin, has also passed 1,000 first-class runs in each of the last two seasons.
Lewis added: “Mark’s been consistent for two years with 1,000 championship runs – as has Scott Borthwick to be fair, for both of them to do that with half of their games at the Emirates ICG is a good effort.
“Mark also scored some good white ball runs in the Royal London. It will be interesting to see what happens in the West Indies, in terms of where Trott bats and how Lyth goes. But if Mark starts the season well, he could be pushing himself quite quickly. That’s the thing, when England have had a tough winter there is a clamour for change.”
With plenty of other familiar faces around – Paul Collingwood, Phil Mustard, and the consistently excellent Chris Rushworth – plus fresher ones like Calum MacLeod, Ryan Pringle and Jamie Harrison, Durham seem well-equipped to achieve Lewis’s aim of competing on all fronts in 2015.
Captain: Paul Collingwood (LV= County Championship), Mark Stoneman (NatWest T20 Blast and Royal London One-Day Cup)
First-team coach: Jon Lewis
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