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30th July 2020 Interviews

Eckersley, honoured to be named Durham red-ball captain

Ned Eckersley has spoken on the “honour” of being named captain of Durham’s red-ball side for the Bob Willis Trophy campaign.

The 30-year-old replaced Cameron Bancroft in the role after the Australian remained in his homeland amid the coronavirus pandemic. Eckersley captained Durham towards the end of last season when Bancroft donned the Baggy Green for the 2019 Ashes series.

Now in permanent charge, the wicketkeeper has set his sights on stamping his authority on the role and is eager for his team to take the fight to the opposition in their five group matches this term.

He said: “It’s a great honour to be named Durham captain. Having been only up here for around 18 months, it has been great to be involved in the club, but also the region. To be given the responsibility to lead the four-day team is a huge one in this shortened version of the season.

“I always look for a team that is extremely competitive. I don’t want us to be afraid to be in a scrap of a game with our opponents and not taking a backwards step. I want to let the guys go out there and express themselves.

“We’ve got a talented squad of players and my job is to get the best out of them and make sure they feel comfortable and confident to deliver their best on the field. If I can do that and they trust me, I’m confident we’re going to be in a good place.”

Durham host Yorkshire to begin the Bob Willis Trophy, and will play three of their five North Group matches at Emirates Riverside. Eckersley is hopeful that his team can maintain their strong home form from last term to spark a surge towards the crown.

“We want to make Emirates Riverside a very difficult place to come,” he added. “At the end of last season we started to play some good cricket at home. There’s going to be an element of the unknown because of the season starting in August and we don’t know how the wickets are going to play.

“Hopefully we can get into our stride and work out a method for success quickly at home. It’s definitely in our favour that we have three home matches and we have to capitalise. We have to make sure that when someone comes to Emirates Riverside they get a tough challenge and are under pressure straight away.

“With the shortened season you’re going to have to start the season strong. You can’t afford to be playing catch up with only two or three games left having to win and rely on others. Unlike other seasons you have to get that fast start to build momentum.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how teams adapt to the conditions. Each team is going to have to figure out the best way and ones that do that the quickest are going to stand out from the rest.”

It has been four years since Durham last graced Division One of the County Championship, but the new competition will allow them to face Yorkshire in red-ball action for the first time since their relegation to the second tier.

Eckersley has called on his team-mates to rise to the challenge and show that the North-East outfit are capable of beating top-quality opposition with a view of a return to their Championship-winning days of the last decade.

“I wouldn’t say we had a point to prove against Yorkshire or even Lancashire,” Eckersley said.

“Division One is the standard of cricket we want to be at. We want to be challenging for the title in Division One – the likes of Yorkshire and Lancashire are the ones that look likely to be top of the tree in the next few years and have been recently.

“We’re excited to be in the North Group to play a few teams that would normally be in Division One. We’ve got a squad that’s capable of playing in that division and winning the title. We have to go out there and show it.

“I know if we play the cricket that we can do and showed towards the end of last season there’s no reason why we cannot challenge this year.”

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