Test Match Sofa
Harmison and Plunkett discuss Durham futures
By Tim Wellock
Durham are locked in discussions with Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett about their futures following their failure to get back on track this season.
Both have a year left on their contracts and there has been talk of Harmison having a testimonial in his final season. He will be 34 in October and has been on the Durham staff since 1998, playing in 129 first-class matches for the club as well as 62 Tests.
Plunkett is still only 27 but he has played in only one County Championship match this season, taking none for 69 in 12 overs at Taunton, and he played in only the first two games last year.
He spent last winter re-modelling his action in the hope of improving his accuracy, but after playing in the Twenty20 tournament he developed an Achilles injury and a second drink-driving offence has added to his woes.
“It’s been a frustrating year for Liam,” said coach Geoff Cook. “We have spoken to him and asked him what he wants to do with his future. If he feels there might be better opportunities elsewhere we wouldn’t stand in his way. Steve Harmison is in a similar situation. He’s talking a few things over with the club.”
It was hoped Harmison’s loan spell at Yorkshire might help to put him back on track. But in three games he sent down 18 wides and 11 no-balls in 42 overs before a side strain cut short his stay. He is unlikely to feature in Paul Collingwood’s plans for next season as the new captain has made it clear he wants bowlers who can apply pressure through accuracy.
Collingwood is a fan of Callum Thorp, who has been offered a new one-year contract, despite the fact he will be 37 in February. After going wicketless in last week’s win at Trent Bridge, where 22-year-old Mark Wood took five of the seven wickets gained in the final session to snatch victory, it was a surprise to many that Thorp was retained at Wood’s expense against Worcestershire.
Collingwood explained: “Mark has unbelievable talent and will have a big future here, but the amazing thing when I told him he wasn’t playing against Worcester was that he understood.
"He won the match at Trent Bridge with reverse swing, but you don’t get that at Riverside and I wanted to stick with the four seamers who have been bowling sides out in our home games. Callum might not always take wickets but he’s a very skilful bowler who builds pressure and can suddenly make things happen.”
Collingwood added that Durham will not be relaxing over the last two games after their fourth successive win lifted them into mid-table.
“Four wins on the trot equals the club record and we’re always looking to break records and move forward,” he said. “When I took over the captaincy I told the lads we could be the best team in the division over the remainder of the season and so far we have been.”
Collingwood admitted he was a reluctant captain, but added: “I’m delighted I’ve taken it on and I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed it. It was a great challenge and the boys have responded really well. Some tough decisions had to be made, but I’d love to do the job for another two years if Durham want me to.”
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