Harmison set for Old Trafford test
Out-of-favour England strike bowler Steve Harmison and rising star Scott Borthwick are in line to play in Durham’s Twenty20 Northern Group clash against Lancashire Lightning at Old Trafford tonight.
Harmison did not feature in the Dynamos first three games, which included wins against Derbyshire and Leicestershire, while Borthwick has yet to make his senior debut.
The 18-year-old left-arm spinner replaces veteran slow bowler Paul Wiseman in a 13-man squad, and will play if the Dynamos decide to include two spinners.
With Old Trafford, one of Harmison’s favourite grounds, traditionally having pace and bounce, the Ashington Express could make his seasonal bow in the shortest form of the game.
Younger brother Ben, also yet to feature, is in the squad, but Gordon Muchall has been left out after making 11 runs in two innings.
Will Smith, meanwhile, has blossomed since his recall to the side and is the Dynamos leading run-maker after the opening three games with an average of 33.
Smith said: “It’s been good to get among the runs and I’m happy with the way it’s going for me, but winning games with Durham is the priority.
“We got off to the perfect start with two wins, but came unstuck at my former club Nottinghamshire on Saturday and need to bounce back at Old Trafford.”
Captain Dale Benkenstein has also been a heavy scorer in the early rounds, but the potentially explosive opening partnership of Michael Di Venuto and Phil Mustard has yet to fire.
Di Venuto has managed only five runs from three innings, including two ducks, and while Mustard has scored 62 runs in three knocks, it hasn’t been with the same authority as last season.
The Colonel has been a shadow of his former self since coming back from England duty over the winter – his first experience of international cricket.
The hard-hitting 25-year-old has been caught between two stools so far this summer, either uncharacteristically cautious or suicidally gung-ho, as at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
One, or both, openers need to come off tonight against a Lightning side that tops the group with a 100% record from the opening three rounds of matches.
Durham coach Geoff Cook said: “Everyone was disappointed with our first defeat in Nottingham, but we have a super team for Twenty20 cricket and there’ll be some spectacular cricket to come.
“It’s the fourth time we’ve faced Lancashire already this season, having played them in the championship and Friends Provident Trophy, and they are a strong side who have started well.
“It will be our third consecutive away game in the group, but we know that if we win six or seven of our 10 games we’ll have a real chance of finishing in the top two.
“Ten Twenty20 Cup games in 16 days is a tough ask, and the trick is keeping everyone fresh and fit and picking the right team for the right game.”
A depleted Durham lost heavily in the Championship at Old Trafford and in the FPT at the same ground, but gained revenge in the Trophy at the Riverside.
Tonight’s televised clash comes too quick for England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and fellow seamer Glen Chapple, who began their come back in the second team against Durham’s second string this week.
And with Australian Brad Hodge on Test duty, New Zealand international Lou Vincent, 29, continues to deputise for a Lancashire side that will also be without England swing bowler James Anderson.
After tonight’s showdown at Old Trafford, Durham’s next two games in the competition are at home against Notts Outlaws on Wednesday and Leicestershire Foxes on Friday.
Durham Dynamos: (from) D Benkenstein (capt), M Di Venuto, P Mustard, W Smith, A Morkel, S Pollock, G Breese, L Plunkett, S Borthwick, S Harmison, N Killeen, M Claydon.