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29th September 2008

Geoff Cook Looks at County Championship Success

“When you win the County Championship, which has been going for 120 years, then you’ve joined history,” he said. “It has been a rocky road in many ways over the years.”

Cook is an ever-present from the very earliest days when Ian Botham and other luminaries were completing their careers in the north east.

“Those years were romantic,” Cook recalled. “We had lots of top names who came along and enjoyed what Durham had to offer.

“Following that generation we had to get down to brass tacks and try to create the solid base which, we hope, we have now.

“David Boon came and introduced qualities we were looking for at that time, and Michael Hussey was with us fleetingly and kept up those qualities and also brought a huge level of individual performance as well.

“Then we had a group of people, including Michael Di Venuto and Benkenstein, to continue in that vein. We’ve been lucky to have quality people.”

Cook did not dare to dream all those years ago what could be achieved, but was always confident Durham were trying to do things the right way.

“The county always set its stall out to have a great ground, to have quality cricketers, and if they could be locally grown all the better,” he said.

“We’ve introduced something, from a sporting sense, into the north east. Now we have hammered another nail into the wall.

“Winning the Friends Provident Trophy last year was great, but it will probably turn into something else in another season, if it’s there at all, so that is almost in passing.

“Last year was a terrific help in getting the team confidence but this year we’ve put our name on a flag that is going to be here for ever more.

“I think this is probably my proudest achievement. You tend to get lost in your own career but when you see so many players enjoy themselves – people in and outside the dressing room – that is a sweet moment.

“It’s a terrifically proud moment for me personally. But it’s a fantastic moment for Dale, who is a marvellous leader of this team.”

Benkenstein took an outstanding catch in the gully to see off Kent’s Justin Kemp and end a stand of 107 with Ryan McLaren which all but ensured Durham would canter to a win, eventually achieved by an innings and 71 runs at Canterbury.

After Nottinghamshire failed to beat Hampshire at Trent Bridge, Durham could begin their celebrations properly and Cook could keep handing out the plaudits.

“Whether Dale’s scoring runs or taking wickets he sets an example with his desire to win and for his players to do things in the correct way,” he added. “For him to take the match-turning catch was terrific.”

Callum Thorp’s career-best 7-88 hastened Durham’s victory but Steve Harmison finished the job by taking the last two Kent wickets with successive deliveries.

Harmison’s 60 championship victims – in a season largely spent re-establishing his England credentials – were a huge contribution, and one readily recognised by Cook.

“Stephen’s pace has obviously troubled everyone all season,” he said. “This year we were lucky to call on him for probably two thirds of the campaign and he’s been terrific, helping the other bowlers feed off him.”

Harmison returned the compliment and credits Cook and assistant Jon Lewis with helping to ensure Durham’s young players continue to come to the fore.

“When they started off they went with experience, Ian Botham and David Graveney, but there had to be a progression of young players coming in,” Harmison said.

“From 1998, when David Boon left, the Jon Lewis era (as captain) wasn’t fantastic in terms of results. But it was in terms of what he brought through, 10 or 12 good young local cricketers.

“Three or four of them have kicked on, played international cricket, and now we’ve won the championship.”