Australian influence key to Durham easing their 2019 problems

T20 BLAST PREVIEW: Cameron Bancroft is again the centre of attention as the Lions attempt to eclipse their performance from 2018 when they reached the last eight

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Coach: James Franklin

Captain: Cameron Bancroft

Overseas: Cameron Bancroft (Australia), D'Arcy Short (Australia)

Last season: Quarter-finals

How did they do last year?

The Jets appeared to have the perfect blend of youth and experience last season but couldn't make a place at finals day stick. Ben Stokes and Tom Latham, supplemented by Imran Tahir and Chris Rushworth was enough to navigate an always tough group phase. Only net run-rate saw them finish off the top and that saw them run into an inspired Sussex - the eventual runners-up - who eased to victory at Chester-le-Street.

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Is D'Arcy Short the silver bullet for Durham?

Who are their key players?

Cameron Bancroft: Probably the stand-out arrival in county cricket this season has struggled to inspire Durham this term. It took until June for them to win a Championship game while they finished fourth in the North Division in the One-Day Cup. The T20 format could provide a welcome distraction. His record in this competition is rather patchy however, having scored 800 runs in domestic games at 33.33.

D'Arcy Short: One of the most fascinating overseas signings for the Blast and one that has the chance to make a real impression. The highest scorer at the 2017-18 Big Bash with a record 578 runs. With Australia, he helped put on the biggest first-wicket stand with Aaron Finch and could thrive again when partnered with fellow-countryman Bancroft. Not named in the World Cup squad but has been warming up for the competition during the Australia A tour of England.

Ben Stokes: It remains to be seen if he will be made available during the Ashes but Stokes should at least be in the frame for the start of the campaign. He made four outings last season and was vital to the cause, averaging four with the ball and 59 with the bat. He will provide that superstar quality but having already endured an exhaustive schedule this summer will the Lions be able to call on him?

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What are their biggest strengths?

This Durham side feels very batting heavy with Short and Bancroft likely to open up, with Alex Lees providing able support further down the order. The latter pair enjoyed fine One-Day Cup form, both averaging in the 90s. The return of Ben Raine was much anticipated and he has delivered with 25 wickets in the Championship but must transfer that form to the shorter form.

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How much will Ben Stokes be available this summer?

Where might they have a weakness?

Durham's squad has been drained of quality from last season's T20 side and it remains to be seen if they can plug those gaps. Any side without Latham, Tahir, Paul Collingwood and probably Mark Wood and Stokes is going to struggle. And how much is 32-year-old Chris Rushworth going to figure?

Chances of reaching Finals Day?

You imagine matching last season's quarter-final finish might be beyond them, making an appearance in the competition into deep September highly unlikely. They might have enough to blow sides away with the bat but they simply don't have the control with the ball capable of edging close matches.

Strongest XI (with T20 Player Index ratings): Graham Clark (331), D'Arcy Short (46), Alex Lees (1019), Cameron Bancroft (279), Jack Burham (1120), Gareth Harte (1362), James Weighell (423), Ben Raine (319), Liam Trevaskis (721), Brydon Carse (1502), Nathan Rimmington (479)

Fixtures: Jul 19 - Northamptonshire (h), Jul 21 - Lancashire (a), Jul 26 - Lancashire (a), Jul 28 - Worcestershire (h), Jul 31 - Leicestershire (h), Aug 2 - Lancashire (h), Aug 7 - Northamptonshire (a), Aug 9 - Derbyshire (a), Aug 11 - Nottinghamshire (h), Aug 15 - Worcestershire (h), Aug 16 - Yorkshire (a), Aug 23 - Yorkshire (h), Aug 27 - Birmingham (h), Aug 30 - Nottinghamshire (a)

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