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25th July 2008

Geoff Cook looks ahead to T20 Finals Day

Durham take on Middlesex Crusaders in the second semi-final at Hampshire’s stadium on the outskirts of Southampton, with the winners guaranteed a place in the Champions League.

The top two sides from India’s IPL plus Australia and South Africa’s domestic Twenty20 competitions will also compete for a shot at the £2.5million prize for the winners.

But Cook is eager for his side to concentrate on reaching the final to take on Kent Spitfires or Essex Eagles – because they are hungry for silverware rather than for financial reward.

Durham won last season’s Friends Provident Trophy in Cook’s first season as coach of the north-east county – courtesy of a resounding win over Hampshire at Lord’s, and the former Test batsman is hoping for more of the same this weekend.

Cook told “The Champions League would be a wonderful thing to be involved in. To represent English cricket on a global stage would be fantastic for Durham.

“Obviously, as a short-term incentive, it’s not as big as the chance to win the Twenty20 Cup.”

However, with Durham’s rapid rise from minnows to a serious force on the county circuit, Cook’s ambitions do not end with Saturday’s showpiece. 

“The Twenty20 Cup is a fairly new competition. It would be nice if we were able to win it,” he added. “That said, it would be wonderful to be seen as county champions.

“That is a historic thing. If a relatively new county could win it would be fantastic.”

With success comes a packed fixture schedule – one not helped by the scheduled quarter-final being postponed because Yorkshire fielded an ineligible player, and the rearranged last-eight clash, against Glamorgan, taking place only this Tuesday.

In the last seven days Durham have thrashed Surrey to go top of the LV County Championship, beaten Saturday’s opponents Middlesex in the NatWest Pro40, got past the Dragons in that Twenty20 clash and narrowly lost out to Somerset Sabres in the Pro40 despite the valiant efforts of last-wicket pair Liam Plunkett and Steve Harmison.

“In the last week we’ve played a four-day game, the Twenty20 Cup quarter-final against Glamorgan and two tough Pro40 matches. That’s a lot of demanding cricket,” said Cook. “Only now can we anticipate and prepare.

“Generally in cricket you need to have a bit of a rest, but time will tell if it has been beneficial.

“A little more time to rest would have been nice but of course as we speak Middlesex are playing a four-day game which probably won’t finish until the day before finals day.

Cook acknowledges that Middlesex will be dangerous opponents on Saturday, even without England opener Andrew Strauss, who has been ordered to rest by his country.

“We played Middlesex in a one-day match on Sunday and I was impressed with their top six batsman,” said Cook.

“Dawid Malan obviously scored a brilliant century in their quarter-final win against Lancashire while Owais Shah is an established one-day international batsman. Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce are dangerous too, so their batting is very strong.”

While Cook has identified Middlesex’s main threats, he insists the Crusaders will have a tough task doing the same to his side, which is likely to include an array of internationals such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul, England one-day captain Paul Collingwood, Phil Mustard, Plunkett and Harmison.

“We are full of experience right the way through from one to 11 so they can all potentially be match winners,” Cook insisted.

“There’s nobody who we think ‘if he fails, we’re in trouble’.

“What we hope is that two or three lads can go out and win the game for us.”