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5th October 2020 Interviews

Franklin: We have left both competitions on a relatively good note going into 2021

Durham Cricket Lead High performance coach James Franklin admits Durham underperformed this summer but is pleased to have ended both competitions on a good note looking towards the 2021 season.

 “Firstly, it has been great to get back out and play, if you think back to April any thought of playing was very far away, and for the ECB to put a couple of competitions on, we have to be thankful for them for that”; Franklin said.

“In terms of our own performance we have underperformed in what we wanted to achieve from this truncated season, but we have left the season on a relatively good note in both competitions.

“The Bob Willis Trophy we didn’t start well enough with losses against Yorkshire and Lancashire, but we got better with each game and then the final match against Nottinghamshire was a line in the sand for us and where we want to try and start next season. We held out for a tough draw against a good Nottinghamshire side and played some good cricket in that game.

“There was some good individual success in that competition, Alex Lees was stand out and batted consistently well, Gareth Harte the same and with the ball Chris Rushworth led the charge again and was followed by other seamers, which we rotated through the course of that competition, looking at different bowling combinations, with an eye towards next year.

“On the T20 front we had a slow start and didn’t win a game in the first five games. There were aspects with the bat and ball which were good, but we couldn’t put it together. But credit to the playing staff for turning it around, in a big way and taking it right down to that last game having won four in a row. If we had won that last game, we would have qualified and you can isolate that game, but to win four out of five games in the back end is something which the group can be proud of, going into the next season.

“Matty Potts backed up last season in the T20 competition, he pretty much won two games on his own against Lancashire and Yorkshire. Graham Clark was brilliant in the T20 and Ben Raine when picked at the back end of the season. There was lots of other contributions around that but really happy for them guys who could perform consistently.”

The former New Zealand international cricketer was also a big advocate of the Bob Willis Trophy and has given his backing for it permanent fixture in the county cricket calendar following its successful inaugural season.

The pandemic forced the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) into action to ensure that a semblance of the 2020 season was saved. The new competition replaced the County Championship, splitting the 18 counties into three groups of six separated geographically.

Durham faced off against First Division sides Yorkshire and Lancashire as well Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire in the North Group.

Although his side failed to record a victory from their five matches, and finished bottom of the standings, Franklin was full of praise for the set-up of the competition and believes that it would benefit all parties in the game if it became a permanent part of the cricketing schedule.

“I loved the Bob Willis Trophy format,” he said. “I’m an advocate of it, but it’s not necessarily the view of Durham Cricket. I enjoyed the conference system and playing against teams that we weren’t expecting to play against.

“We played against some First Division sides and we came up short, but it was a good test for us to have. Let’s see what happens because there are decisions being made about what next season is going to look like.

“I would like to see a system where you would be able to refresh the conferences every year. It would give good stimulation to players, coaches and the spectators. If all the counties in the country have the opportunity to start at an even keel and have the opportunity to go on and win a County Championship by having an amazing year – the best team will no doubt win that as we’ve seen. I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to have that system.

“I think in years gone by it has become a bit stale, especially if you’ve been stuck in the Second Division playing the same teams over and over again. I think there’s an opportunity to change the conferences to give the players stimulation of playing new players and at new grounds.

“We’ve got some players in our team that have never played at some county grounds, which I find amazing. How could playing against different teams not be exciting for everyone involved?”

Durham have ensured their batting ranks will be bolstered next term with the signing of Scott Borthwick.

The 30-year-old became the third player in as many years to return to the North East, following in the footsteps of Ben Raine and Paul Coughlin, having ended a four-season tenure with Surrey.

“It’s massive for the club,” Franklin said. “He’s a Durham boy and he’s gone down to Surrey and done well there. It’s a big boost for us as a playing squad to be getting back a local lad and a proven performer. Scott’s at a good age where he can keep cracking on and providing performances for Durham Cricket for years to come.

“All three lads wanted to come back to the club. Ben was the first then Paul followed and now we’ve got Scott across the line as well. Their skill set also matches what we’re looking for from our team.

“It has a little bit of romance about it as well, with those North East boys travelling afar and then still wanting to come back and play for their home county.”




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