Gareth Breese has paid tribute to the way Scott Styris has eased into Durham's multi-talented team on and off the field.
The 31-year-old will be expected to play a key role when the Riversiders play their first Twenty20 game of 2007 at the Riverside, against Nottinghamshire, but team-mate Breese insists Styris' biggest contributions have come away from the public gaze. The New Zealander has passed 50 only once so far in his Durham career - a magnificent match-winning 98 against Yorkshire in the Friends Provident Trophy - but Montego Bay-born Breese says his effect has been felt beyond the boundary.
"Scott has had an awesome impact," he commented. "He came in and got 98 against Yorkshire in his second game for us. It was a fantastic innings.
"He's been really good in the dressing room. The type of dressing room we have is a laid-back one and he's added to that. It's been easy for him to fit in, but he's contributed to everything straight away.
"On the pitch, he's been even more influential. His fielding is good, and his all-round capabilities have given us lots of different options." Captain Dale Benkenstein has an embarrassment of options available to him at present. The team's middle order of Will Smith, Styris and himself all bowled in Friday's defeat to Lancashire.
Opener Phil Mustard and Garry Park are wicketkeepers, while Breese, Ottis Gibson, Paul Wiseman and Graham Onions have all made important contributions with the bat as well as ball this season. Even without England one-day internationals Paul Collingwood and Liam Plunkett, Durham still have a formidable squad to call on with the likes of Ben Harmison, Mark Davies, Mitch Claydon, Kyle Coetzer, Gary Scott and the injured Callum Thorp left out of the 13-man squad to play tonight.
"We have made some really good signings," commented Breese, who has found himself out of the picture in Championship cricket thanks to the form of fellow spinner Wiseman.
"Dale Benkenstein has been a fantastic addition - he's been so consistent for us - and Michael Di Venuto has been really good for us this season in terms of his professionalism and his weight of runs. He's given us something that the younger players can aspire to." Durham go into tonight's Twenty20 Cup home game on the back of defeat to Lancashire and a washout at Derbyshire. It is form more in-keeping with their historical record in the competition than that which has seen them challenge for the County Championship Division One title and in August's final of the Friends Provident Trophy.
Breese, however, believes an ability to bounce back from setbacks has been a characteristic of the campaign.
"One of the biggest challenges has been to pick ourselves back up when things haven't gone so well in the County Championship," said Breese.
"The good sides know how to pick themselves up after a bad day and keep their momentum." Steve Harmison is included in the Durham squad and will play his fourth game of Twenty20 cricket in three years.
He will replace Plunkett from the side defeated at Old Trafford in Durham's opening game. Tonight's game starts at 6pm. Tickets, priced £15 for adults and £6 for juniors, will be available when the gates open at 4pm.