Durham hurt by high-profile exits – but coach Jon Lewis backs youngsters to step up

Durham CCC prepare for the new season

Durham CCC prepare for the new season

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Durham County Cricket Club coach Jon Lewis believes the club will be hurt this season by high-profile departures over the winter.

But he reckons second tier first-class cricket is the perfect stage for the county’s youngsters to shine.

The likes of Phil Mustard, Scott Borthwick, Gordon Muchall and Mark Stoneman left the Riverside after Durham’s relegation.

But while Lewis was disappointed to lose the experience and runs from his team, he thinks those in and around the fringes last term, will have a summer to establish themselves as full fledged first-teamers this time out.

“It was disappointing to lose North East guys from the squad,” said Lewis.

“They came through the system here and were great servants to this cricket club. It is sad to lose them, but that opens up an avenue for someone else to forge their own career here.

“It is far from ideal. It would be nice to have some established, proven performers.

“But we have a lot of young talent on our books who have made an impact but only briefly. There chance to make their mark is set to come this season.”

Some would say it is impossible to replace those departed.

Lewis is not in that school of thought. Instead, he believes some of the players who were retained by the club will be the envy of every other first-class county.

“I wouldn’t say those players are irreplaceable. But without doubt it is tricky to fill those gaps,” he added.

“We still have a few senior players who would walk into any first-class side in the country.

“So while we are talking about the rise of some of younger stars it is important to remember that Paul, Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth who are pretty proven performers, some of them at the very highest level.

“They will be significant.

“We need them to have big seasons, as well as one or two of younger players to follow suit.

“We feel like we can achieve a lot this season.”

Stressing the importance of having the likes of test match decorated Mark Wood, Onions and Collingwood around, he continued: “It is important.

“The experienced guys, I’d imagine will play a significant part with the red ball this season. But the younger lads will get a chance to maybe lead a little more in the shorter forms.

“This could be where many of them stamp their mark this campaign.”

The Championship season starts tomorrow, but Durham instead begin their traditional home three-day match against Durham MCCU, with free admission at the Emirates Riverside (11am start).

Their first Championship match starts next Friday, with Notts the visitors.