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20th October 2023 Interviews

Marcus North: “Winning Division 2 is not the peak of our goals”

Marcus North has insisted that winning the LV= Insurance County Championship Division Two title is just the first step of Durham’s journey back towards the pinnacle of the first-class game.

Durham ended their seven-year exile from Division One with a storming run to the second division crown, winning seven of their 14 matches, including their final game of the season against Leicestershire by a dominant innings and 141 runs in front of a home crowd at Seat Unique Riverside.

However, director of cricket North, who arrived in his role in 2019, has now set his sights on achieving bigger goals in Division One to take Durham back to the top of the Championship game, where they were once one of the leading sides in the country before being relegated in 2016 for financial penalties.

He said: “It’s certainly been our objective in my role for the past four years and everyone involved in the club to get us back into Division One. It’s been well-documented why we were relegated back to Division Two, and it has been a lot of hard work and a lot of investment into the playing group. I’m so proud of the players and everyone involved in the club, we’ve had a fantastic year and we’re back in Division One, which is great.

“This is a fantastic achievement winning Division Two, it’s a really tough competition to get out of, but that’s not the peak of our goals. It’s part of our journey that Ryan and I are looking to take the club back into Division One to compete. We feel that we have the squad there to compete with the best. Surrey, Essex and Somerset have been real leaders over the last five years, with Surrey winning the last couple. We’re very aware of the level that we have to get to, but we’re confident we’re going to have the squad capable of competing with those teams.”

After failing to compete for promotion in 2022, Durham looked for a new direction in their coaching ranks and turned to Netherlands coach Ryan Campbell in search of inspiration to return the club back to Division One.

Campbell’s attacking ethos, bearing similarities to the ‘Bazball’ approach adopted by England under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, was clear from day one of his reign.

Despite losing the opening game of their Division Two campaign against Sussex, Durham never wavered from their new stance, playing positive cricket to force the issue against their opponents. The result has led the club back to Division One with seven victories, and a club record 54 batting points accumulated across the season.

North has hailed Campbell’s impact in altering the mentality of the club’s approach and the players for executed the gameplan on the field.

“I never doubted that we had the quality,” he added. “It was just about having the environment and having the opportunity to unleash it and let it flourish. What we’ve seen this year from our squad of players that have played to our potential and then some. I think that’s a great reflection on the impact that Ryan has had as a coach, and the players, who have to take full credit for this. They’ve performed week in and week out to the philosophies that Ryan wanted to play. They had the skill and were able to adapt to the mental challenge. We’ve seen so many amazing performances from so many players.

“When you look at our performances in Championship cricket, the batting has been sensational. There have been a few things that have aligned themselves, but the mentality that the guys have bought into has been key.

“Ryan came in here and was very public that he wanted the guys to play entertaining and attacking cricket, which enables the team to have more time in the field to get 20 wickets, which inevitably wins you games.

“The consistency of our batting has been incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it in a four-day campaign with the record batting points we’ve attained, which is even more remarkable considering that they made it harder to get bonus points. All the disciplines have come together from the first game of the season, even though we lost against Sussex, it was the way we played that gave us the confidence that if we stayed true to that and believed in it then the results would come from that moment, that has been the story of the season.”

The work preparing for Division One has already begun in Chester-le-Street. Durham have already signed Callum Parkinson and Colin Ackermann from Leicestershire to boost their squad, and North has already acted quick to recruit Scott Boland as the overseas seam bowler to support Ben Raine, Matthew Potts and Brydon Carse next term.

North said: “Callum Parkinson will come into the squad, who I think is an outstanding English spinner and a little underrated because he has gone under the radar. Giving him the opportunity to come to Durham and play a key role should allow him to flourish.

“Ackermann will bring quality as an established first-class pro with thousands of runs to his name as well as an off-spinning option. Both of those players will make us better in red and white-ball cricket. The signing of Scott Boland as our overseas seam bowler to come into our side next year to coincide with our young talent that are still being nurtured and developed, we feel that we’ll have the depth to handle Division One next season.”a


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