As coach bids farewell to Durham, new fresh era beck­ons for club

JON LEWIS STEPPED DOWN LAST WEEK

Sunday Sun - - Cricket - Stu­art Rayner

BE­TWEEN them, Ge­off Cook, Paul Colling­wood, David Harker and Jon Lewis served Durham for 98 years – not bad con­sid­er­ing the club has only been a first-class county for 26. All have left in the space of six months.

As starts go, next sea­son’s could barely be fresher.

Coach Lewis was the lat­est to leave, af­ter be­ing marginalised by the coach­ing re­view car­ried out by Cook’s suc­ces­sor Mar­cus North.

Lewis was un­able to re­cover from the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of Durham’s 2016 fi­nan­cial melt­down, but his con­tri­bu­tion should not be over­looked.

Until then a top-or­der bats­man in and out of Es­sex’s line-up, he has been a cru­cial fig­ure in shap­ing Durham since 1997.

It was a tough time to be an opener. The team was still find­ing its feet in pro­fes­sional cricket, and the new River­side pitch yet to set­tle down. By the time he re­tired in 2006, Lewis was the county’s high­est first-class run-scorer and lead­ing ap­pear­ance-maker.

His con­tri­bu­tion went way be­yond tough­ing it out when the new ball was at its most spite­ful.

To judge it by the league ta­ble, Lewis’ four years as cap­tain were a mis­er­able fail­ure – eighth, ninth, sixth and ninth in County Cham­pi­onship Di­vi­sion Two. Once he handed the reins to Mike Hussey, the suc­cess story be­gan. There was much more to his time than that, though. Colling­wood and Stephen Harmi­son be­came Eng­land play­ers and Gra­ham Onions, Liam Plun­kett and Phil Mus­tard, who all went on to wear the Three Li­ons, were handed Durham de­buts by Lewis, along with Scot­land cap­tain Kyle Coet­zer. Gor­don Muchall started on the path to be­ing a club stal­wart, Mark Davies one of the county cir­cuit’s best seam­ers, and for a while An­drew Pratt was its finest wick­et­keeper. But the play­ers who owed their suc­cess to Lewis did not end there. When he re­tired in 2006, he be­came sec­ond-team coach and gave plenty more fu­ture Eng­land stars their ground­ing. Durham won the 2008 Sec­ond XI Cham­pi­onship. They should never have won the first-team ver­sion in 2013. Those who pre­dicted rel­e­ga­tion were over­look­ing the re­vival Colling­wood started when tak­ing over as cap­tain mid­way through the 2012 cam­paign but the River­siders’ se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties were just one of their off-field prob­lems. Hav­ing al­ready lost their great­est player, Dale Benken­stein, with a sea­son-end­ing in­jury, they nearly lost Cook for good to a mid­sea­son heart at­tack. That should have been the end of their ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions, but Lewis stepped in as in­terim head coach, ral­lied the play­ers he had nur­tured and led them over the line.

He was re­warded with the job full-time in the win­ter, and marked his first sea­son in charge with the One-Day Cup. So thin was Durham’s squad they only used 13 play­ers win­ning it and their over­seas all-rounder, John Hast­ings, missed the fi­nal be­cause Chen­nai Super Kings called him up for the Cham­pi­ons League.

Lewis led Durham to a first Twenty20 fi­nal in 2016, only to run out of steam half an hour af­ter beat­ing York­shire in the semi-fi­nal. Their 2017 dis­plays were ter­ri­ble, but last sea­son they sur­pris­ingly reached the quar­ter­fi­nals. It is in the Cham­pi­onship where the mod­ern-day Durham are mea­sured, though, and since be­ing de­moted to Di­vi­sion Two be­cause of their fi­nances, they have never threat­ened to get back. The heart was ripped out of the team with Mark Stone­man, Keaton Jen­nings, Scott Borth­wick and Paul Cough­lin jump­ing ship. Mus-

Jon Lewis stepped down as Durham coach ear­lier this week. Left, for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive David Harker

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